This research qualifies a social psychological truism: that people like others who like them (the reciprocity principle). College women viewed the Facebook profiles of four male students who had previously seen their profiles. They were told that the men (a) liked them a lot, (b) liked them only an average amount, or (c) liked them either a lot or an average amount (uncertain condition). Comparison of the first two conditions yielded results consistent with the reciprocity principle. Participants were more attracted to men who liked them a lot than to men who liked them an average amount. Results for the uncertain condition, however, were consistent with research on the pleasures of uncertainty. Participants in the uncertain condition were most attracted to the men-even more attracted than were participants who were told that the men liked them a lot. Uncertain participants reported thinking about the men the most, and this increased their attraction toward the men. (source) (via MR)So what's a guy (or girl) to do then? Playing the game feels lame and fake. It's also hard to strike a balance between being nice and acting not interested.
I think that the key is confidence. If you're confident with who you are and about where you're at in life, you can be interested without coming across as overbearing, you won't seem as "needy," and relationships won't be as high-pressure, as you're not using your love life as a measuring stick of your self worth.
I guess one other takeaway from the study is that if you're not going to play the game (or just aren't very good at it), let the other person know that you're interested, so they see you as someone in category A instead of B.
Other thoughts about how to apply (or get around) the findings of the study without being fake / manipulative?