Making Her “Bed Rock”: Why Do Men Drop Such Awful Chat-Up Lines?

Research suggests there may be a purpose to men using cheesy chat-up lines that most women hate.

All relationships begin with a conversation, and all conversations begin with an opening line.

But which opening lines are most effective, and why do some people persist with the same awful chat-up lines?

To find out, Matthew Cooper and his colleagues from the University of Central Lancashire in the UK collected a list of opening gambits. They asked a group of volunteers to imagine a man trying to strike up a conversation with a woman. Each conversation started with one of the opening lines. The volunteers rated the likelihood that the woman would continue the conversation or end it as soon as she heard the line.

The volunteers also completed a personality questionnaire, and described what they desired in their ideal partner.

As one might expect, the volunteers thought the stereotypical chat-up lines were terrible. Instead, they preferred comments that depended on the context of the encounter or revealed something about the man’s character, interests, or wealth. So, a man had a better chance with a woman if he offered her a taxi he had hailed for himself, or asked for her help picking out an expensive watch. Men fared less well if they paid hackneyed compliments like “I think you have something in your eye — oh, it’s just a sparkle”. Sexual statements and bad jokes were judged even less effective.

But if that’s true, why haven’t men learned their lesson? Cooper thinks there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, men genuinely think bad lines are good! Compared to women, men believe lines that refer to positive character traits (e.g. generosity, a good sense of humor) are less effective, but that sexual or unfunny chat up lines are more effective.

Another theory is that men may use suggestive chat up lines because they have two aims: to attract a women and to select a certain type of woman.

Cooper found that women who were extroverted — and who preferred a partner who was independent, conceited, or forceful — were more likely to respond well to “bad” chat up lines.

So, a man may drop a stale pick up line to quickly determine whether a woman is likely to fall for a bad-boy type. If she isn’t interested, he can try the same line on the next woman at the bar. And the next, and the next, and the next…

Cooper, M., O’Donnell, D., Caryl, P. G., Morrison, R., & Bale, C. (2007). Chat-up lines as male displays: Effects of content, sex, and personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 43(5), 1075–1085. Read summary

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