The world's most confusing topic, explained.

Turns out, flirting is largely based on physical cues, and a few recent studies have uncovered what those are and how to use them to land the bar fly or Christan Mingle member of your dreams.

Look, we know that “My name is John, but you can call me tonight!” is your favorite pickup line in life, but according to recent research, it’s about as effective as saying “I’m gonna dig up your bones for lunch!”

That’s because science has found that when it comes to flirting, it doesn’t  matter what you say … just what you do. With your body, specifically.

First thing you need to know? Conveying interest is worth more than a thousand boobs.  Explanation: Dr. Monica Moore, a psychologist at Webster University in St. Louis, conducted research on the flirting techniques and found that it’s not the most physically attractive people who get flirted with. No, ma’am — it’s the ones who signal their availability and confidence through basic flirting techniques.

And just what are these flirtatious mechanisms? Eye contact, smiles, touching and displays of  social dominance.

Let’s start with the first two. Smiling and eye contact are universal methods used by both men and women to convey romantic interest, and are the first thing that signals your interest in someone. In fact, eye contact is not only a signal, it can actually make someone more attracted to you. But what about when that smiling and eye contact pays off and you find yourself talking to McHandsome HotPants or whatever ridiculously-named female equivalent you're pining after?

Calculated touching comes next, and research has isolated which types of touching are most effective. Efficacy of the touch types ranged from being regarded as “merely friendly,” in the zone of “plausible deniability,” or “going nuclear.” The study found that a shoulder push, shoulder tap or handshake was regarded as friendly, while a touch around the shoulder or waist, or a touch on the forearm could be seen as “plausibly deniable.” However, once faces started getting touched, the physical action was seen as “nuclear,” or undeniably meant for flirtation.

The behavior that participants rated as reflecting the most flirtation and the most romantic  attraction was the soft face touch, followed by the touch around the shoulder or waist, and then  the soft touch on the forearm. Research has even shown that even a light touch on the arm  makes a man more successful in getting a girl’s number.

However, all this touching is great and all, but it can be perceived differently in different locations. Research shows that the more formal the setting, the more obvious you need to be to  get the “I want you” signal across.

One study measured this by observing the reactions of people being flirted with in a variety of settings. For each scenario, participants indicated whether they believed the stranger was flirting with them or not. Turns out, 68% of people think you’re flirting with them the most at restaurants and bars, and they were rated as the best places to meet someone. Beyond that, 61% of people thought they were being flirted with in any location if the stranger went out of his way to talk to them, and 83% of respondents believed they were being flirted with when given a compliment. With these results, it would seem like the best way to get your point across would be to compliment a stranger’s well-formed knees at Panera Bread.

But, as we know, walking up to a stranger and complementing their kneecaps at a wholesome eatery can work wonders for women when they’re flirting — but it can be perceived as wildly creeptastic when done by men. (The same applies to the touching tactics we mentioned above.)

So, early on, how can a guy flirt without getting in trouble or being too aggressive? Research has shown that the flirting that is most effective for men involves displays of social dominance. The results indicated that the men who successfully initiated romantic contact with women exhibited a greater number of particular kinds of non-verbal flirting behavior than men who crashed and burned.

Specifically, successful men directed more brief glances at their intended ex-wife, engaged in a greater number of “space maximization” movements (positioning the body so that it takes up more space; e.g., extending one arm across an adjacent chair, stretching so that both arms extend straight up in the air), changed their location in the bar more frequently, and displayed greater amounts of non-reciprocated touching to surrounding men (e.g., playfully shoving, touching, or elbowing the ribs of other men). Maybe this seems fratty or aggressive, but it's in line with many of nature's mating rituals; countless species puff up their body or maximize space to seem more attractive to potential mates. Peacocks, for interest. For men, the trick is maximizing space while staying respectful to whoever they're interested in. Simply stretching your arms out isn't going to to shit; it's more of what you say around the time you did your little peacock display.

And how are men supposed to know if this posturing is working? MIT researchers say that when a woman starts speaking smoothly and quickly to you, it is. Ladies, being more perceptive, usually don’t need MIT to tell them when their flirtation techniques are working. They just know. Also: boners.