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It's complicated. And women prefer it that way, study shows

A quick love lesson, specifically for guys who like girls: If you're into a new lady, whatever you do -- don't let her know it. A new study using Facebook suggests that women are most attracted to dudes who play hard to get.

Researchers recruited 47 female undergraduate students at the University of Virginia, and the participants checked out four fake Facebook profiles of cute college boys (two white, one black and one Asian). The women were told that these were real guys, and that these guys had checked out and rated the women's own Facebook profiles. The study participants were told one of three things: Either the guys gave them high ratings, average ratings -- or the researchers told the volunteers that they couldn't reveal the ratings, for experiment-y purposes.

Turns out, that last category drove the women wild. The study participants filled out a survey rating how much they liked each guy, and then were asked how much each fella had "popped into their head." The women who didn't know what the (fake) guys thought about them rated those guys the highest -- even higher than the women who knew their (fake) guys were into them.

Lead author Erin Whitchurch, of the University of Virginia's psychology department, says that the idea for the study came to her while she was reading a women's magazine, and happened across conflicting dating advice between the covers of the same issue "In one story, it (was) saying that it's better to be honest about your attraction to a person, and in another (it was) saying the exact opposite, that it's better to 'play the game' so to speak," Whitchurch says.

"At about the same time, a very good friend of mine told me that after a year of seeing a guy, she still got butterflies," she continues. "I ... wondered if part of it was because despite the fact they had been seeing each other for so long, they never had 'the talk,' still only saw each other two or three times a week, never exchanged 'I love you's.' I wondered if she was still getting butterflies because she was still uncertain about their relationship status."

Although the study only included women, Whitchurch believes she'd get similar results were she to use male participants. But she knows the love lessons her research reveals can sometimes be hard to follow.

"My best friend absolutely hates my research, as she firmly believes in telling people how she feels," Whitchurch says. "While I agree that, in principle, that would be nice, I tell her to think about what she wants in the long-run. If it's the guy, then a little discomfort on her end, not being quite so open about her intentions and creating a little uncertainty will pay off tenfold."

When's the last time you played hard-to-get? How'd it work out?

You can find The Body Odd on Twitter and Facebook, and follow Melissa Dahl @melissadahl.