Talking to women can be hard, or so I’ve heard. Turns out, those dusty Shakespeare books you have in the back of your closet may help you score a date. A new study from China has found that women are more attracted to men who use metaphorical language when giving a compliment, as opposed to literal speech. This study may help men looking to meet women at the bar, but it also provides insight into the evolutionary roots of what women are looking for in potential mates.

The study, published online in Scientific Reports, found that women generally respond better to men who use metaphorical language to compliment them on their physical appearance than men who use literal language, or men who compliment them on their belongings, such as their homes. The researchers theorize that figurative language gives women insight into a man’s creative and intellectual abilities, two very important traits they look for in a mate.

Read: What Women Want: Women Are Less Attracted To Masculinity And Men Are Less Attracted To Femininity

“We tend to form very rapid impressions about a person’s attractiveness in social contexts and thus for women, cues from language usage during initial encounters may provide a rapid first assessment of a potential mate’s intellectual and creative abilities,” the authors of the study said, according to Psy Post

For their research, the team from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China studied 116 heterosexual female college students and their response to compliments from men. First, the women were asked to rate the physical attractiveness of 140 men based on a photo. The photos were also paired with compliments that the women were told the men in the photo had written themselves. These compliments, which were actually created by the researchers, used either literal or metaphorical language to compliment a woman’s face or her house.

Result showed that the majority of the women responded more positively to metaphorical compliments towards her face. For example, according to PsyPost, compliments such as “Your eyes are a gorgeous rainbow,” were appreciated more by the women than literal compliments such as “Your lips are sexy.”

Of course, this study was not merely an endeavor to get men more dates. It revealed an interesting clue into what women subconsciously look for when it comes to male mates. Men have less of an investment in offspring than women, as, at least evolutionarily speaking, they did not carry a child during pregnancy, and they don't have to raise it into adulthood. A man’s best strategy for passing on his DNA is to have many children, with the hope that most will survive long enough to further carry on his genes. For this reason, men look for traits in a woman that demonstrate that she can bear many healthy children, such as youth, curvy hips, and a healthy complexion, Slice reported.

On the other hand, women invest far more into their offspring and aren't looking to have as many. For this reason, they are more interested in the genes in a man that can help their children best survive and best find a future mate of their own. While physical attraction is important, women understand that intelligence and creativity also play a role in human survival and dominance, so naturally women gravitate towards men with these traits.

In modern days, these evolutionary drives become less and less important, but the instincts still remain, to some degree. 

Source: Gao Z, Gao S, Xu L, Zheng X, Ma X, Luo L, Kendrick KM. Women prefer men who use metaphorical language when paying compliments in a romantic context. Scientific Reports. 2017

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