Does Playing 'Hard to Get' Work?I’m sure every woman involved in the dating scene has, at one time or another, heard the concept of “playing hard to get.”

In order to make a guy really want to pursue her, a woman has to pretend to be unavailable (even though she’s not) and start a good old-fashioned cat-and-mouse chase. She tries not to let him know she’s that interested with those obvious cues, she lays low with communication and dodges messages until he has an epiphany.

You may find this hard to believe, but there’s research to suggest this actually works.

Jaqulyn Spezze, MS, MA posted on e-Harmony’s blog that surveys suggest hard-to-get games work with women in particular. Studies have illustrated that in cases where the woman is physically attractive, youthful and healthy, with the bonus of being hard-to-get, they may be perceived as being reproductively valuable in a man’s eyes.

The hard-to-get motif gives men the impression that women are truly desirable — they wouldn’t just date any guy. Playing hard-to-get tests the male’s ability to invest in resources (money, time, effort), his motivation, and the nature of his fidelity.

Peter Jonason, PhD and assistant psychology professor at the University of Western Sydney, explained that women derive more benefit from playing hard-to-get.

“Because women have greater value in the biological mating market, they can afford to play hard-to-get more than men. Men who are too hard-to-get may miss out on a mating opportunity.”

My friend, Doug Gibbons, disagrees with this widespread theory and humorously sums up a generalized disconnect between the genders, while advocating why it’s really open and honest communication that works best.

“It seems to function sort of like a driving trip,” he noted. “Women prefer to take the long, annoying, scenic route with plenty of stops.”

“Men like to gas up the car, hold their bladders and make good time straight to the destination. I don’t want to stop to see the 138th largest crystal collection in Montana. I want to get where we are going as efficiently as possible.”

“Text me back instead of letting it go for twelve hours in an attempt to seem hard to get and more desirable. When you do that, you’re just coming off as either flaky or annoying. If you like me, tell me; if you don’t, tell me.”

Personally, I’m more apt to agree with Doug. I’ve certainly participated in the game; I just have a feeling it doesn’t end up panning out if the guy on the other end isn’t on the same page. I don’t desire a game of tug of war. Authentic disclosure and expression is a time-saver.



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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Jan 2013
    Published on All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Suval, L. (2013). Does Playing ‘Hard to Get’ Work?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from


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