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Playing Hard to Get Potentially Fried this Frog


Let’s recap: Ben and Jen, Blake and Miranda, Gavin and Gwen, Zayn and Perrie, and now Miss Piggy and Kermit. There has been a wave of celebrities announcing their decisions to end their relationships in the last few weeks. Being that Miss Piggy’s announcement hit me particularly hard, I decided to analyze just what went wrong. Was it her frequent temper tantrums and karate kicks? Her obsession with fame? Lack of a social support network due to their interspecies relationship? Or perhaps it was the way she approached her relationship with Kermit from the beginning?

Miss Piggy was very clear and direct in her expressions of love for Kermit. In recalling how they met, she said “The first time I saw Kermit, Moi's future flashed before me in a pink, rosy glow. The first time Kermit saw Moi, he was lost for words.”1 She was clear about her love for Kermit from the outset, but were her advances too strong? In a series of studies conducted in the 1970s, researchersexamined whether playing hard to get makes a woman more or less attractive. They began by asking college-aged men why they preferred the elusive, “hard to get” woman. Common responses were:

  • If she is choosy she must be popular
  • She is more valuable
  • We enjoy the challenge
  • She is more desirable2

These college aged students may have been on to something, as a number of psychological theories provide support for the idea that the hard to get woman should be more appealing. For example, dissonance theory puts forth the argument that the more energy expended toward a goal, the more appreciative the person who pursued the goal will be once it is attained. If Kermit had to work to win over Miss Piggy’s affection, he would have valued the effort he put in, and in turn valued her. Further, based on learning theory, frustration may increase a person’s drive and the impact of the reward provided. A person that is a little standoffish could frustrate a potential suitor, thereby heightening his drive level. This would make the acceptance of his advances a larger reward. Also, based on this theory, elusiveness may be associated with value, as there is more competition for desirable partners.2 If Miss Piggy wasn’t so forthcoming with her attraction for Kermit, she would have maximized the impact of her desire for him. 

So did she play it all wrong? Was she simply too intense during the course of their relationship? In the research mentioned above, the researchers demonstrated that in fact there are two components that determine how much a man will like a woman. The first component is how hard or easy she is for him to get and the second is how hard or easy she is for other men to obtain. If a woman is too easy to get, her affection is not seen as anything special. However, if she is perceived as too hard to get, men run the risk of rejection. She may also be seen as rigid or cold.2

Thus, the perfect combination is a woman who is perceived as hard to get for everyone else, but not so hard for the one doing the pursuing (e.g. Kermit). For example, in one of their studies, Walster and colleagues manipulated how hard or easy five fictitious women were to get, and examined the responses of 71 college students. The subjects were told that they were going to be matched up with the women and that three of them already had the opportunity to examine their male matches (with the subjects’ profiles included). A woman appeared easy to get when she indicated that she was enthusiastic about dating all five men assigned to her. She appeared hard to get when she was not willing to date any of the men assigned to her. Finally, she appeared to be selective when she was easy for the subject to get (she rated him high), but hard for everyone else to get (rated them low).  Nearly all subjects preferred to date the selective woman. Specifically, they found that “If a woman has a reputation for being hard to get, but for some reason she is easy for the subject to get, she should be maximally appealing.”2

Now Miss Piggy seemed to brush all others off, and made it clear to Kermit that he was the one for her. This would make her selective, so what exactly is the problem? It is important to realize that this study viewed the process only from the male perspective, and didn’t take into account how women view men during mate selection. Perhaps the demise of their relationship had nothing to do with Miss Piggy, but was a result of Kermit’s actions. It may be the case that their relationship ended because Kermit didn’t properly value Miss Piggy. She may have gotten tired of him having played too hard to get for too long. The exchange below illustrates his indifference to her perfectly:

Miss Piggy: Kermit, do you notice that every time we have a beautiful girl on the show, you forget about me?
Kermit: Uh, yeah, well, we could have a seal act on the show, and I might forget about you.3

Good luck with the seals Kermit, you just lost your pig.

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1MissPiggyFans.Com (2005). Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog. Retrieved from http://www.misspiggyfans.com/Kermit/

2Walster, E., Walster, G. W., Piliavin, J., & Schmidt, L. (1973). 'Playing hard to get': Understanding an elusive phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology26(1), 113-121. doi:10.1037/h0034234

3Harris, P. (Director). (1976, November 27) The muppet show - Candice Bergen. [Television series episode]. Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England, UK: Incorporated Television Company.

Dr. Marisa Cohen

Marisa, along with a colleague at St. Francis College, founded the Self-Awareness and Bonding Lab (SABL) in Fall 2014. Research has focused on the development of relationships throughout the life span, including factors influencing mate choice and peoples’ perceptions of what makes relationships survive and thrive. Her specific focus is on how various relationship configurations impact the satisfaction derived from them.

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Reader Comments (1)

When I read these type of articles, I immediately wonder "sexually male" or "male-gender identifying"...? ie what of those people whose gender id is not as clear/binary as their sex?

And further, what's the proportion of men who don't consider hard-to-get females are attractive? How does that correlate with their gender identity? Or with their position on the wider autistic (empathising-systemising) spectrum?

Those with autistic/Aspergers tendencies, tend not to see the views of society as that important, so that may have an effect, too.

Relating her being "easy to get" with "her affection not being special" also implies that the male suitor is unable to make judgements for himself, or doesn't trust or value his own judgements. That seems to be more important, and might form the basis of a subsequent study...

Stephen, Cambridge England

January 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterStephen
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