Catherine Townsend: Girls, steer clear of a man who's obsessed with his Ferrari

Would chat about extreme sports work from Johnny Vegas?
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The Independent Online

In the first academic study of verbal courtship behaviour, to be reported shortly in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, psychologists tested 40 pick-up tactics on more than 200 people who were asked to rate them.

Opening gambits that revealed intelligence and personal qualities such as generosity, the ability to take charge and physical fitness were the most likely to appeal to women. Cheesy pre-planned jokes and empty compliments crashed and burned.

All very interesting, but I probably could have told them the same thing with a straw poll of my girlfriends. One of the lines the psychologists recommend, "I'm the owner, would you like to dance?", would probably work if true because it implies the man has a steady job. But the study also showed that nothing is more offensive than an ostentatious and obnoxious display of property, such as swanking about owning an expensive car.

A few months ago I met a friend for cocktails and was approached by an attractive and well-spoken guy who offered to buy me a drink. Things were going swimmingly until he said, "Do you want to go for a ride? My Ferrari is parked just outside", then proceeded to wave his keys in my face. In my experience, the size of a man's obsession with his vehicle is inversely proportional to the size of his genitals, so I told him that I would have to pass.

Dr Christopher Bale, who led the study, says that a direct request for sex received a low score, but was not the least effective method - which I suppose is good news for the classy lads who approach with, "Great top, it would look even better crumpled on my floor in the morning" or the ever-popular "Nice shoes, fancy a shag?".

Of course, the researchers didn't mention the looks of the psychologists doing the questioning. Though the lines may have got volunteers to tick the "yes" box in a hypothetical environment, I have to wonder if an extreme sports reference would really work, as they suggest it would, if delivered in the pub by a Johnny Vegas lookalike?

Approaches that suggested culture and spontaneous wit - meant to be a clue to intelligence - were also highly rated. So if a man's repertoire includes phrases like "You are the star that completes the constellation of my existence", researchers suggest adopting more specific ones, such as "It's a fine instrument, wouldn't you say? A Steinway concert grand, if I'm not mistaken." I'm not sure about this. An obscure musical reference may arouse a girl's interest initially, but there is definitely such a thing as trying too hard. The guy who delivers that line is sure to go down in flames once his love interest realises that his tastes are more McFly than Mozart.

I once had a guy approach me and a group of girlfriends with, "Hey, I may not be the best-looking guy in the bar, but I'm the only one talking to you". It worked as an instant ice-breaker because he made us laugh, and he ended up getting one of my friend's numbers.

The bottom line is, when his delivery is sincere and witty, a man has every chance of success, whether he's referencing an 18th-century literary work or simply saying "Hi". The real challenge is keeping me entertained for the next ten minutes - not to mention the rest of the night.

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