Researchers analyze men's pickup lines

Even the worst pickup lines &

"You remind me of a parking ticket, because you've got FINE written all over you," for instance &

serve an evolutionary purpose, according to a team of Scotland psychologists.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have conducted a study of opening lines uttered by would-be Casanovas, which appears in an October issue of the psychology journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Why a study on pickup lines? More than just another opportunity for embarrassment in the pursuit of love, opening remarks at a bar reveal volumes about character and general fitness. And they reveal who the user is trying to attract.

Peter Caryl, one of the study's authors, figured this warranted a closer look.

Most people probably know that a bad pickup line will quickly end the conversation, he says, but "I don't expect that most of them think they're revealing anything about their genes or fitness by speaking to someone new in a bar."

Pickup lines have long been a staple of pop culture, often mined for comedy. VH1 now has a whole program dedicated to the craft with the reality show "The Pickup Artist," in which a fellow named Mystery (the self-proclaimed world's greatest pickup artist) coaches down-on-their-luck schlubs on meeting women.

But Caryl and his team in Edinburgh have the pickup line down to a science, literally. For the study, 127 females completed a survey to determine their personality type. They were then asked to rate the effectiveness of 40 vignettes, each one describing a scenario of a man trying to strike up a conversation with a woman.

Though there was plenty of overlap among the groups, extroverted women tended to prefer funny opening lines, non-conformist women resisted displays of wealth and appeals to their sense of culture. Chivalry appealed widely. A scenario in which a potential suitor chides drunken louts who cut in line won the hearts of female subjects in all personality categories.

An earlier study conducted by the researchers ranked the overall effectiveness of the same 40 vignettes, some written by the researchers and others culled from TV, movies and W eb sites. Canned jokes and compliments did poorly, while remarks that reflected the specific situation or surroundings did best. Offering thoughts on a painting at a museum worked (though it helps to know something about art), as did asking for help in picking out a watch for a friend.

Opening lines with sexual innuendo &

"What has 148 teeth and can hold back the Incredible Hulk? My fly," for example &

ranked toward the bottom of the list. But that doesn't stop guys from using them. Caryl theorizes that these lines are the users' way of zeroing in on more promiscuous women. If she's still talking to you after your Incredible Hulk joke (which ranked 36 out of 40 ), there's a better chance that she's less faithful to her current partner and more likely to be up for a one-night stand.

Generally, the 60 males surveyed did well predicting which remarks would work best but overestimated the effectiveness of the risque lines.

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