The song says “a kiss is just a kiss.” Not so fast, there, Louis Armstrong! A kiss is a lot more than just a kiss, although to Armstrong’s credit, he was a musician, not a scientist. Now, science is telling us we shouldn’t hesitate to pucker up and smooch! A new study has shown that kissing is influential in helping people pick life partners and assess whether someone will be a suitable companion. It also can determine the longevity of the relationship. Results varied between men and women, with women rating kissing as more important to them in romantic relationships.
Dr. Robin Dunbar, the lead researcher in the study, says that kissing is just one piece of the big puzzle that makes up a relationship:
Mate choice and courtship in humans is complex. It involves a series of periods of assessments where people ask themselves ‘shall I carry on deeper into this relationship?’ Initial attraction may include facial, body, and social cues. The assessments become more and more intimate as we go deeper into the courtship stage, and this is where kissing comes in. In choosing partners, we have to deal with the Jane Austen problem: how long do you wait for Mr. Darcy to come along when you can’t wait forever and there may be lots of women waiting just for him? At what point do you have to compromise for the curate?
Interestingly, the study showed that kissing within long-term relationships was different than kissing in short-term relationships. In short-term relationships, kissing was voted as less important outside of a sexual context, while in a long-term relationship, it was voted as important both within and out of a sexual context.
So what is the actual purpose of kissing? The study showed that the kiss itself is kind of like a wine tasting: people are sampling the smell and taste of potential partners to see if they will be a good fit for the future. After all, you wouldn’t want to commit to a lifetime of drinking the same wine or eating the same cheese without sampling it first, right?
The study also revealed that attractive people kiss more often, and that women have shifting attitudes about kissing depending on what phase they are in their menstrual cycles. During the study, women placed more value on kissing during the first phase of the cycle near ovulation than they did during later parts of the phase. This makes sense since ovulation is the time when women can conceive and kissing, of course, can lead to arousal.
Kissing has been found to be present in almost every culture around the world, and even in the animal kingdom, though researchers point out that no animal has been found to place the same importance on kissing as do human members of the animal kingdom.
The study has been published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior and Human Nature in a two-part paper. The study says to go ahead and smooch, because kissing helps people pick both short term and long term partners, and to keep a relationship going once it’s initiated. Pucker up!
By: Rebecca Savastio