Whether you’re the type to play it cool or dive head first, everybody has their own perspectives when it comes to developing new relationships. From harmless social media “stalking” to heavy ultimatum giving, there is a spectrum of ways people in relationships play mind games for leverage in their partnerships.

We wanted to explore these tactics, so we surveyed Americans from various demographics to understand just how many games they play. In our findings, we investigated common psychological strategies used in interpersonal dynamics, such as delaying text responses, posting on social media to provoke jealousy, and even creating fake accounts for surveillance.

Our goal was to uncover the prevalence of these mind games and just how much they vary among different groups. 

Analyzing Insights Around Mind Games in Relationships

Dating and relationships are nothing short of challenging. Whether you or your partner are the challenger in the relationship, odds are that one of you has played some sort of mind game at one point or another. 

Infographic highlights insights around deception in relationships 

Some mind games are more harmless than others. For example, delaying responding to a message for a few measly minutes is nothing compared to full-fledged ghosting.

With that in mind, we wanted to uncover all the ways Americans play mind games: the good, the bad, and the savage! Take a look at what we found:

With Regard to Messaging

  • On average, 80% of Americans surveyed delay responding to or opening a message from others they’re interested in. 
  • Gen Z purposely waits to respond to messages the most, with a whopping 90% claiming to have done so.
  • 1 in every 3 Americans surveyed has intentionally sent a “wrong” message to someone to spark conversation.

With Regard to Playing Hard to Get

  • 7 in 10 Americans surveyed have claimed to “play hard to get.” Three-quarters of women have “played hard to get,” while just 60% of men have done the same.
  • 3 in 5 Americans have used the silent treatment against a partner, with more men (46%) having done so than women (35%).

With Regard to Ghosting

  • The majority of Americans (56%) surveyed have ghosted someone.
  • Gen Zers are the generation that has ghosted the most, with two-thirds of all Gen Zers admitting to doing so.
  • 3 in 5 Americans in a relationship said they have ghosted someone before.

With Regard to Changing Plans

  • 3 in every 10 Americans have canceled or moved plans to make the other person think they were busy when they, in fact, were not.

With Regard to Giving Ultimatums

  • On average, 40% of Americans surveyed have given a romantic partner an ultimatum.
  • Nearly twice as many women (48%) surveyed have given ultimatums than men (27%).

With Regard to Social Media

  • About 1 in every 5 Americans surveyed have created or used a fake social media account to cyberstalk someone they’re romantically interested in.
  • On average, half of the American population has intentionally posted something on social media so that a certain someone will see it, with about two-thirds of Gen Zers doing so.

“Playing games is no way to form a long-term healthy relationship — but it might get results in the short term,” said Amber Brooks, dating expert and Editor-in-Chief for DatingNews.com. “While it’s tempting to use manipulative tactics in the dating world, those games of intrigue will never be as powerful nor as attractive as honest vulnerability and empathy.”

The States That Play the Most Mind Games

Now that we know just what lengths people go to play mind games let’s uncover where, across America, locals play mind games the most. Using these survey responses we created an index to pinpoint just which states are the biggest game players.

Rounding out the Top 10: 

  1. Delaware – 41.3 out of 55
  2. Alabama – 40.4 out of 55
  3. Mississippi – 39.7 out of 55
  4. Oklahoma – 36.9 out of 55
  5. Nevada – 35.3 out of 55
  6. Hawaii – 34.8 out of 55
  7. Illinois – 34.1 out of 55
  8. Maryland – 33.9 out of 55
  9. Georgia – 33.2 out of 55
  10. Texas – 31.4 out of 55

Taking the number one spot overall is Delaware, with a score of 41.3/55. Residents of this state play the most mind games, and from our findings, it seems more often than not, they are ones to 1) cancel or change plans intentionally without real cause beyond wanting to appear busy, 2) post on social media with the intention of having a certain someone see it, and 3) frequently practice the silent treatment when in relationships. 

The next notable messy-daters are residents of Alabama. Though they are locals to the “Heart of Dixie,” these residents are not weary of playing with hearts. According to our survey, Alabamians were the ones who most regularly send “wrong” messages intentionally and subtweet the most overall.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, we can see that we have all played a mind game or two, some more harmless than others, but nonetheless, we Americans cannot help but spice up relationships somehow. In today’s fast-changing world of online and app-based dating, these tendencies are that much more frequent with the modern behaviors and technologies shaping romantic relationships. 


In late May and early June of 2024, we surveyed 2,213 people across the U.S. to gather information on their tendencies regarding mind games in relationships. Our mind game questions revolved around tendencies and interactions regarding social media, communication tactics, and scheduling, to name a few. 

By exploring a wide range of demographics and regional nuances, we aimed to provide a comprehensive view of how mind games in relationships are perceived and experienced across the United States.

To determine which states play mind games the most, we created an index based on the responses of residents of each state. We evenly weighted each question to give every state analyzed a score out of 55 (1 being not messy (does not play mind games) and 55 being completely messy (does play mind games)) based on the results. It’s worth noting that due to their lower populations, we did not receive enough responses from Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming to include in our findings.