The next time you find yourself on a date, it might be worth taking up as much physical space as you can: a new study has found that "displays of expansive posture" could increase your chances of finding romance and attracting a mate.
That conclusion is based on the analysis of 144 speed daters and 3,000 online daters. Across two scenarios – meeting face-to-face and browsing online profiles on a smartphone – those who took up less physical space were ranked as less attractive. Stances that included outspread limbs and stretched torsos were considered as "expansive postures" for the purposes of the study.
The researchers behind the study think an open posture might hint at dominance, and that's why people who sit and stand in that way are more desirable. It might also suggest an abundance of resources and a willingness to share them (ahem).
For example, those people who moved their hands a lot during speed dating sessions were found to almost double their odds of getting a positive response from their prospective partner. Even laughing and smiling didn’t garner as positive a response as spreading out.
"We've seen it in the animal world, that taking up more space and maximising presence in a physical space is used as signal for attracting a mate," one of the researchers Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk from the University of California, Berkeley, told CNN. "By exerting dominance they're trying to signal to a potential mate, 'I am able to do things, I have a space in this hierarchy, I have access to resources.'"
When using an unnamed dating app, six heterosexual volunteers set up two profiles with contrasting types of photo to gauge the different types of reaction.
A more expansive stance was found to be beneficial for both sexes, though the increase in 'likes' was greater for the males in the study - 87 percent of the positive responses for the male participants were to an 'open' photograph rather than a 'closed' one.
But there's more than one way to interpret these results. Irving Biederman, a professor of neuroscience from the University of Southern California, told Olga Khazan at The Atlantic that some of the 'expansive' women might have come across as vulnerable rather than dominant.
Another expert, Agustín Fuentes of the University of Notre Dame, suggested that the findings could show a general social preference for openness rather than indicating that more open poses are fundamentally more attractive.
"[T]he findings might be a sign of general social preference for openness, but not necessarily that open-looking poses are sexier," Khazan explained.
For Vacharkulksemsuk and her colleagues though, it's a sign that the dating game might be changing – that men are looking for something different to the demure, non-threatening female stereotype.
"For decades, women have been told they’re most attractive when they’re demure, high-pitched, and generally non-threatening," Khazan writes. "This data 'may be signifying a change in what men are looking for in women', [Vacharkulksemsuk] said."
The results of the study have been published in the journal PNAS.