3 Interestingly Weird Things That Happens To Your Brain When You Flirt

couple taking selfie

What do you do when you’ve been dragged to a nightclub by your friends and you’re out of your element. You may keep to yourself by the bar while your friend is tearing it up on the dance floor. Some point during the night, a guy comes up to the bar for another beer and you two lock eyes. You smile, he smiles, and he asks your name. Cue the flirtations!

Like birds who preen their feathers so that they are fluffy and well groomed, the act of flirting is the human equivalent of a bird’s mating ritual. This is how we determine if another person is a suitable partner for us.

According to Daniel Givens, an anthropologist, and director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies, flirting goes back 500 million years. People have been flirting with one another for that long, but like any other ritual, it can go incredibly well or it could go terribly wrong.

To clarify why we flirt and why some of our attempts to flirt fail miserably, we talked to some behavioral experts about what our brain does while we are flirting.

1. Your flight-or-fight instincts are triggered. Givens suggests that animals have a natural distrust of other animals. So when we meet others, the amygdala in the brain kicks on and triggers the flight-or-fight instincts. Flirting helps quell those instincts.

“When you have to get males and females close together to exchange genetic material, there are signs that have evolved to show safeness and interest. These are the signs and signals that make up our flirting,” he says.

2. You send attraction hormones to the other person. The amygdala that is responsible for triggering the fear part of your brain is part of a larger system called the limbic system. When the fear of another person goes away, the rest of the limbic system kicks in, thus triggering our desires. These desires range anywhere from wanting food to craving love. Then the feel-good hormone, dopamine, is released from the brain and our bodies start to send out non-verbal cues to the other person that they are interested.

Be that as it may, flirting is non-committal and gives you the opportunity to leave without hurting the other person because the anterior cingulate cortex in the brain puts up a barrier that sends you a message that you may be rejected.

3. You send subconscious submissive body signals.

Once the attraction trumps fear, your body is ready to get those signals going. One of the most common cues is shrugging of the shoulders. It shows a submissiveness that lets the other person that you won’t bite. You could also:

  • Talk with your palms up, as it’s a gesture of friendship
  • Lean toward the person of interest
  • Touch your hair
  • Stare deeply into their eyes

Sometimes you may not even be aware of the cues your body gives off — things like a racing heart, sweaty palms, blushing, or a spike in blood pressure, are indicators that the sympathetic nervous system is active and you may soon mirror each other’s actions unintentionally.