You may be playing hard-to-get without even knowing it. We scoffed earlier this year when we heard that "The Rules"—the 1995 dating guide that encouraged women to be passive and pleasing and play hard-to-get— was making a comeback. But new research shows that the rules may be right after all: Playing hard-to-get actually works.
Related: Study Shows Men and Women Can't Just Be Friends
Published in the European Journal of Personality, the data from hundreds of people in four different experiments showed that college-age men and women who played hard-to-get ended up with a higher-quality partner.
"We all would want honesty in dating but this is never going to happen," the study's author Peter Jonason, who teaches psychology at the University of Western Sydney in Australia, told NBC. "We are not overtly lying, but we're always trying to marry up."
Related: Is Playng Hard-to-Get a Turn On or Turn Off?
Both sexes play the game, but there are a few slight differences. While women made themselves seem more interesting by not communicating and filling up their schedules, men did so by acting rude, treating others poorly, and "saying all the right things but not calling." In other words, women broadcast their interest and made themselves unavailable, while men appeared available and pretended not to be that interested.
The research also confirmed what anyone who has ever dated anywhere, ever, probably already suspected: that women play hard-to-get far more often than men do.
"Women derive more benefit from playing hard-to-get because it allows them to test men out and increase the demand men place on them," Jonason explained.
In one experiment that focused on almost 300 U.S. college students, researchers found that people weren't playing hard-to-get just to make themselves seem more attractive. Both men and women also used the tactic to test a potential partner's willingness to commit.
And the game doesn't stop when you're part of a couple. Even when they've been dating the same person for a while, the study found that men liked their mates to make them chase them ("low availability"), while women preferred "medium availability" in their partners.
"Because women have greater value in the biological mating market, they can afford to play hard-to-get more than men can," Jonason said. "Men who are too hard-to-get may miss out on a mating opportunity."
Yes, that's code for sex; if a casual hook-up is all that you're looking for, the new research shows that playing hard-to-get lowers your chances of success if you're female—and pretty much eliminates them entirely if you're a guy.
Think head games are ridiculous? You may be playing hard-to-get anyway, without even knowing it. Two tactics that many people might consider essential in a relationship—acting confident and talking to others—were rated by nearly 500 American college students as the main ways both men and women play hard-to-get.
Also on Shine:
5 Ways Playing Hard-to-Get Can Damage Your Love Life
What You Can Still Learn from 'The Rules'
10 Signs She Wants You to Ask Her Out