How to Stop Being Single and Get Ready to Mingle: Perfecting the pick-up line

Scott Barry Kaufman, writer of Psychology Today’s article titled “The Cognitive Psychology of Pick-up Lines,” explained recipients of pick-up lines perceive certain traits about the flirter based on the type of line they use. (Matthew G/Flickr Creative Commons)

Pick-up lines are used by people in bars and at parties the world over, but half the time they end with an eye roll rather than a date. If you’ve been trying and failing to use these kinds of ice breakers, you may be wondering: What’s the fine line that separates a successful pick-up line from a slap in the face? Surprisingly enough, psychologists and single people have been hard at work to unlock the answer.

Scott Barry Kaufman, writer of Psychology Today’s article titled “The Cognitive Psychology of Pick-up Lines,” explained recipients of pick-up lines perceive certain traits about the flirter based on the type of line they use. Kaufman broke these line types down into three categories: “direct gambits” which tend to be more honest and to the point, “innocuous gambits” which act to hide a person’s intentions and “cute/flippant gambits” which are overwhelmingly cheesy and usually funny. He said studies show that cute/flippant gambits tend to be less attractive to both men and women, but that the two genders prefer direct and innocuous gambits, respectively. Women infer a few positive traits from cute/flippant gambits, such as humor, sociability and confidence, which can mean success if she’s looking to have a one-night stand. But because this kind of gambit also makes her think of the flirter as less intelligent and untrustworthy, she may decline from further interaction if she’s looking for something more long-term.

Kaufman also said cognitive fatigue plays a roll. This means that if you want to flirt with someone who looks exhausted or who has been subjected to a number of pick-up lines already, don’t use a pick-up line on them. They are more likely to be annoyed by you and turn you down if you do. Try another approach.

Uni Junkee’s article “Research reveals the strange pick-up lines that apparently work” gave two odd bits of advice for pick-up line use. The first is the use of metaphorical language works. This means that saying things such as “your smile is like a summer breeze” actually works. This could tie into Kaufman’s article in that metaphors may infer intelligence, which is an attractive quality in the long-term. Junkee also suggested narrowing the metaphorical line to compliment the appearance and not the possessions of the person. So, saying something such as “your car is like a summer breeze” won’t be effective.

Discovery Health suggests only using pick-up lines as a last resort if you intend to have a relationship that spans longer than a one-night stand. Instead, they said you should just compliment them or start with the age-old one-liner: “Hi, how are you?”


Hopefully this advice demystified the way to successfully use pick-up lines. But as always, it might just be better to be yourself and see where it takes you.

If you have any questions or need any dating advice, feel free to contact me at rebecca.l.maher@uconn.edu. I’m positive other people are facing the same romantic problems as you, and would love to hear an answer.


Rebecca Maher is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rebecca.l.maher@uconn.edu.