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Level of Fatigue Influences Receptivity to Pickup Lines

New research from Monmouth University finds that being tired or worn down changes how receptive individuals are to pick-up lines.  These findings appear in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Individuals who want to start a relationship utilize relationship initiation strategies, but these strategies may have varying levels of effectiveness depending on the receptivity of the person being approached.  Researchers wanted to determine if the target’s level of ego depletion influenced receptivity to different types of pick-up lines.  Ego-depletion is a state of fatigue an individual experiences after exercising self-control. The key idea is that individuals only have a limited capacity to control the self through regulating impulses, and that once those resources become depleted, it is increasingly difficult for the individual to make good decisions.

To test the effect of ego-depletion on receptivity to pick-up lines, researchers had 99 currently single participants engage in one of two tasks: (1) write a story about a recent trip you have taken to the store or New York City without using the letters A or N; (2) write the same story without any restrictions. As expected, participants in the first condition reported that the task was more difficult, which was likely due to controlling the impulse to write common letters.

Following the writing task, participants viewed three different pick-up lines in the context of an attractive potential partner approaching them and using this line.  The three types of pick-up lines were: direct (‘‘I don’t normally come up to people like this, but I couldn’t resist.’’), innocuous (‘‘Hi, how are you? My name is_____.’’), and cute (‘‘Excuse me what time is it?  I just wanted to be able to remember the exact moment that I met you.’’).  Following each type of pick-up line, participants indicated their receptivity in terms of how likely they would be to continue to talk to the initiator, view the initiator positively, and give the initiator their phone number.

As anticipated, individuals who were in an ego-depleted state tended to be more receptive to the innocuous pick-up lines. However, depleted individuals were less receptive to cute opening lines. Across all participants, cute pick-up lines were least preferred with innocuous and direct pick-up lines most favored. Generally, men were more receptive to all types of pick-up lines than women. Women were more receptive to direct and innocuous lines than men, while men were more receptive to cute lines than women.

These findings suggest that in situations where individuals are naturally depleted (e.g., at the end of the work day or while consuming alcohol), feelings of depletions may play a real, but unconscious role in one’s receptiveness to pick-up lines.

Lewandowski, G. W., Jr., Ciarocco, N. J., Pettenato, M. & Stephan, J. (2012). Pick me up: Ego depletion and receptivity to relationship initiation. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. [Online First] doi: 10.1177/0265407512449401

Media contact(s):

Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. Ph.D., Department of Psychology,

Petra Ludwig, Director of Public Affairs,