UPDATED: Mar 26, 2020
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When people are attracted to each other, there is a natural urge to lock lips. Why is a kiss the first instinct for many people when it comes to expressing a certain kind of affection? There could be biological reasons for the romantic gesture.
Many philematologists, or kissing experts (yes, this profession exists), believe that kissing began with our early ancestors. It all started with mothers chewing up food and transferring it from their mouths to their offspring’s mouths. The belief is that this method of feeding was comforting in some way and mothers continued to press their lips against their children to express affection. As our ancestors began to evolve, so did the kiss.
Humans are not the only species that kiss. Many other species engage in kissing or kissing-like behavior. The basic desire to embrace one another seems to be an almost universal drive in the animal kingdom. This act could be brushing noses, nuzzling up to one another, licking, head tapping or entwining necks. This kissing-like behavior serves some evolutionary purpose for each of its users whether it be for some affection, to quell conflict, to encourage feeding or for social grooming. For humans, the evolutionary function of kissing is to form strong emotional bonds with others.
Some people put a lot of weight on a first kiss. A couple’s first kiss can determine whether there is a romantic future or not. If the first kiss is a bad one, it’s not likely that there will be a second kiss. On the other hand, if the first kiss is spectacular, it’s highly likely that both parties can look forward to more snogging in the future.
It turns out there may be some science behind this first kiss concept. Being close enough to kiss allows you to process one another’s pheromones or the scent clues that attract people to each other. Pheromones help us identify the right mate by giving biological information about their compatibility with us. Women subconsciously prefer the scent of men who have genes that are different from their own. This kind of match could yield offspring with stronger immune systems and better chances of survival. When we are kissing, we are exchanging biological information about whether or not our genes could produce strong, healthy babies.
Chemistry of Kissing
Researchers have discovered a few correlations between the levels of certain chemicals and hormones and prolonged kissing. During a passionate kiss, our blood vessels dilate, and more oxygen is routed to the brain. Our breathing quickens and becomes erratic, our cheeks flush, and our pulse quickens. Kissing reduces levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and increases the feel-good chemicals dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. In short, our biology is hardwired to make kissing feel amazing. No wonder we can’t seem to keep our lips to ourselves.
Whether you are choosing a mate, acting on evolutionary instinct or just trying to feel good smooching is the way to go. Most people can agree that kissing is enjoyable, promotes intimacy and is an all around good thing. So whatever your reason may be, pucker up to your sweetheart this Valentine’s day and get to kissing.