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The Attractor Factor: Why We Flirt and What It Means

Imagine this scene: two people walk into a room and immediately notice each other (cue the romantic music). They hesitantly take a few steps forward, smiling shyly. One runs fingers through tousled hair, while the other straightens a piece of clothing. One laughs nervously while the other coughs. Once they are within speaking distance, a conversation begins. The words, “Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?” issues forth from one, which causes eye rolls from the other and a screeching needle on record sound.

Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship or a potential disaster? Will they laugh about this when they tell the story of their initial encounter at their wedding or will they be grateful that it didn’t progress beyond that first awkward interaction?

Flirting is something people learn in childhood as a means of charming others or getting something they want without asking directly. It offers the opportunity to test the waters without diving in head first. How easy is it to say no the innocent look of a toddler who wants ice cream before dinner, especially if they say “Please.” in a tiny voice?  There are some who adamantly insist that young children aren’t engaging in flirtatious behavior since they contend that it sexualizes the child or the act of simply being friendly. Flirting may indeed be just that, a way of reaching out to get to know another.

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