Do you remember your first kiss? How about that one that caused the world to slow down? They tend to have a memorable impact on our being. But let’s set aside all the romance for a moment, and kissing looks like a pretty peculiar practice. We wanted to find out what is in the science behind kissing? Why do people kiss and what are the benefits of kissing?
Swedish actress, Ingrid Bergman, once said, “A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.” But is it just designed for us verbally-inclined creatures?
The word Philemotology, the study of kissing, translates to “earthly-love” and evolutionary biologists have studied non-human animals to find out if kissing is cross-species across the globe. Many animals show their affection through nose-to-nose and mouth-to-mouth contact. However, only bonobo’s have been found to enjoy deep tongue kisses, similar to humans.
According to this study, kissing between sexual and romantic partners occurs in 90% of human cultures. And even in cultures where kissing is nonexistent or condemned, sex partners may blow in each other’s faces, lick, suck, or rub their partner’s face prior to intercourse.
But this doesn’t really explain why.
So, Why Do People Kiss?
Some studies have found that mate compatibility can be boiled down to your scent. Getting up close and personal with a face-to-face make out session is one way to get a strong whiff of a potential partner. We have MHC (major histocompatibility complex) genes that form part of our immune system and give us our natural body odour. This means that the better someone smells to you, the more likely you are genetically suited.
It has been found that “kissing ability” influences your attraction to that person. Unsurprisingly, their desirability may increase if they kiss well. The science behind kissing here is that one’s “kissing ability” could affect whether you see them as a casual partner or a better fit for a long-term relationship.
There were some gendered differences found, whereby women were more likely to take “kissing ability” into account for casual sex situations and much more so when looking for a long-term partner. Whereas men cared about “kissing ability” equally for casual sex and long term partners.
Neuroscientists have found that on the human Somatosensory Cortex (located in the brain), the lips and tongue are disproportionately larger areas of sensitivity compared to the rest of the body. This means that the concentrated nerve endings found in the lips trigger 200 times more neurons in the brain when you kiss compared to when you hold hands.
Dr Eric Haseltine says this is a “very efficient way to provide a rich sensory experience and to maximize brain-to-brain intimacy.” This is great you want to bond intimately with another human being.
What Are the Benefits of Kissing?
When we kiss, those neurons fired in the brain trigger the release of endorphins from the central nervous system. This includes the lust and romantic hormone dopamine, this hormone can cause addiction – hence our inability to stop kissing someone you like.
The hormone catecholamine increases blood pressure, causes the heart to beat faster and dilates the pupils – almost ready for fight or flight. However, the oxytocin, a love bonding hormone, that is released simultaneously relaxes you by countering the levels of stress hormone cortisol.
Philematologists also advocate kissing as a form of exercise. Though a simple kiss, like a peck on the lips, may only use as few as 2 muscles and burn only up to 3 calories, a passionate kiss can involve up to “34 facial muscles and 112 postural muscles”. This can burn up to 26 calories per minute.
Of course your health and wellbeing go hand-in-hand, or lip-in-lip. Research has shown that kissing frequency has not only been related to higher relationship satisfaction particularly in long-term contexts, but overall greater enjoyment in life.
So what happens when you are in a long distance relationship? Will you just be miserable and lonely without a regular passionate kissing with your partner? Not necessarily. Sextech is trying to bridge this gap with the Kissinger device. Whether this will actually be our future or even sell is yet to be determined.
But for now, just make sure to get your daily kisses in when you can!