The science of kissing – pucker up!

By Anne B

Mathematicians know osculation as the contact of two curves at any given point. What few people know is that osculation also means the act of, or the very instance of exchanging a kiss.

Wait, really? This is information that should have been brought to my attention years ago in high school! Had I equated math with making out, I’m sure my interest in geometry would have gotten a sizable kick in the pants. Ok, enough about high school. That’s an era of life I will cherish fondly, but I don’t really need to relive it. Back to kissing!

Kissing is a part of our romantic lives that doesn’t get nearly enough attention considering how widespread it actually is. Think about the countless differences you’ll find among cultures and their behavior. Now realize that one thing over 90% of cultures have in common in terms of dating is kissing. The first kiss is a cherished milestone in a young person’s coming of age. It’s highly anticipated and stored away in the old memory banks as an adolescent’s introduction into a world of romance. (The poor things don’t know what they’re getting themselves into.)

As adults, passion takes hold and what do you know, lips lock. So what exactly is going on? Why do we engage in kissing, and how much attention should a kiss actually receive? Kissing is found throughout nature, with birds touching beaks and tapping tongues. Elephants even slip their trunks into each other’s mouths. Scientists say that kissing may stem from our ancestors. They who lacked tools and therefore needed to chew food for their infants in order to pass it to them mouth to mouth. Not so romantic, I’ll admit. However at times when the food was running low, mothers would touch their lips to the lips of their little ones as an act of comfort. Most theories say that kissing is motivated by our unconscious mate selection. A game of tonsil hockey might be an indicator of whether or not the person has biological potential as a mate.

The Difference Between Why Men and Women Kiss

The theories range from kissing offering boosts of bonding hormones, exchange of pheromones, and even taste receptors matching the biological pairing through saliva. What is really interesting though, is the difference between why women kiss, and why men kiss. Susan Hughes, an assistant professor of psychology at Albright College in Pennsylvania conducted an extensive study on the “smooch” factor and found that both sexes have different motivations behind kissing in the early stages of getting to know one another. Women emphasize the importance of kissing as a screening process for potential mates. The enthusiasm behind the kiss, the smell of his breath, and the taste of his mouth all play a part in this unspoken interview. Men on the other hand are more likely to see kissing as a means to an end. Kissing is a method to increase his chance of “sealing the deal” or having sex. I should mention that kissing within a committed and long term relationship was valued equally by both sexes as a form of bonding.

Now things get steamy. Men are said to prefer a kiss that initiates more tongue, and therefore more saliva exchange. Men are generally anatomically less sensitive to chemical and sensory cues. They may need a juicier kiss to get a sense for the female’s fertility indicated through saliva exchange. In fact, testosterone is also exchanged from his saliva to hers, making her more aroused. Sly little devils!

So this brings to mind the age old question of when it’s appropriate to kiss a date. Given this information one could say that you would really only be doing some field work in the name of science! On a more serious note, have you ever been on a date with someone you know is a great person; you feel like you should be attracted to them, but when the moment finally arrives where your lips meet it’s just not there? No chemistry? You might want to pay attention to your instincts. We are learning more each day about how our bodies operate, and this might be a small indicator of biological compatibility.

photo credit: pedrosimoes7

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4 thoughts on “The science of kissing – pucker up!

  1. Cool and first-class blog! Thanks for the information also especially about fertility. There are not many blogs worth viewing these days, because of so much trash getting written in comments! Anyway, thanks again! 😀

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