You may have found yourself at that stage in your friendship or such with another person if they really like you – like girls often contemplating if their guy will commit and guys wondering if they are only bound to the friendzone. Mistakes are often made in trying to read each others’ minds like this. Biases on your or their part may also lead you to miss out on signs of attraction that are there; or see interest when there is none. Such over-and-under perception of romance ruins friendships.
Then why, again, is it so hard to tell if someone really likes you? Research might just happen to have some answers to this dilemma in clear terms. Here are some:
Romantic Notions and Error Management Theory
Error Management Theory, by Haselton and Buss (2000), deals with mind reading in romantic relationships, as per evolutionary and social psychological circles. It hints that as we chase some mating advantages for ourselves, we overlook some things and err specifically, behavior heavily undermined by our biases in romantic relationships.
As per the theory suggests, more specifically, the theory rests on the foundation that mating costs are biologically different for men and women: Men's contribution of sperm is fairly cheap and easy—while women's nine months of pregnancy (and the nursing after) is quite costly. As a result, men are often best served by not missing easy sexual opportunities and have evolved biases to perceive female desire—even when none exists. Women, however, are best served by avoiding men who will not invest in them further and have evolved biases to discount men's signs of commitment—even when men are sincere.
This creates trouble as men would be overestimating women’s sexual interest; or women overlooking men’s good intentions, becoming skeptical towards them.
Several studies have been conducted to further evaluate these effects (Haselton & Buss, 2000, Henningsen & Henningsen, 2010). Support has been found for both men's tendency to over-perceive women's sexual interest and women's tendency to be skeptical of men's commitment intentions. The research also indicates that more individual biases creep in too, with both men and women projecting their own level of sexual or commitment interest on a partner as well.
In a nutshell, we can’t seem to draw an accurate line between commitment and desire, because of both evolved/biological and socio-emotional reasons.
How to Tell if They’re Into You
So how to tell if someone really likes you? Well, apart from erring in our inherent perceptions, we’re sometimes right, too… when we focus more on objective signs than biased perception.
Pay attention to the following:
When someone likes you, they get more comfortable around you, leading to an open and forward body language. They may take a while to get familiarized with you but eventually, their movements become more animated as they converse with you. Eye contact always increases. Basically, if they’re into you, they’ll pay attention to you more and behave positively. *Continue reading to next page*