Entries in kiss (4)


A Kiss is More than Just a Kiss

Whereas kissing is commonly perceived as a display of affection in romantic relationships, research highlights a far more nuanced explanation regarding the “function” of kissing within relationships.1 Some research suggests that kissing enables individuals to assess the quality of potential partners by putting individuals in close proximity, making it easier to examine features that are associated with mate value, such as breath and skin texture.2 Other research suggests that kissing elevates levels of arousal, which may lead to sexual intercourse.3 A third body of research suggests that kissing can influence feelings of attachment, alleviate stress, and increase relationship satisfaction.4 Given these varied explanations, the question remains: is there a single purpose for kissing or do all these explanations hold truth?

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Does Being a “Good Kisser” Really Matter?

Obviously, whether or not someone is a good kisser is important. But how important is it? Researchers have hypothesized that subjects who were told that a potential partner was a “good kisser” would find the potential partner as more attractive and would be more likely to pursue future dates with said partner than someone who was described as a “bad kisser.”1 In addition, the researchers expected that subjects would be more interested in having casual sex with this person and would be more likely to consider a long-term relationship, especially for women. So they clearly thought kissing is very important.

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First, Best, Worst, Forbidden, and Regretted: Kisses and Kissing

Chances are you had your first kiss when taking part in a kissing game -- you know those age-old games, like Spin-the-Bottle, Seven Minutes in Heaven, and Run-Chase-Kiss? These games tend to take place during the transition from childhood to adolescence (and maybe some office parties later in life, but let’s not get into that).

But what about your first “real” kiss in a truly romantic or sexual context? Most people remember their first kiss quite clearly. For many girls, that kiss can prompt changes in a sense of self as a sexual person.1 Other first kisses also are notable. The first kiss in a new relationship is an especially giddy event, the novelty of a new partner lasts for a while, and research suggests that we use that kissing experience to sort those with whom we have good genetic compatability.2 At some point, most romantic relationships pass from the rollercoaster phase characterized by passionate kisses into the steadier and affectionate phase of companionate love.3 How does kissing change during this transition?

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A Kiss Is More Than Just a Kiss

We often regard a kiss as a way to show affection or to create a spark. An international survey of over 900 males and females aged 18-63 found that kissing serves a greater purpose and is more than a way to increase arousal. Instead, it’s an important way to assess a partner’s quality, especially for women and for those who rate themselves as highly attractive. Those who more easily separate sex from love (i.e., high sociosexuality) rated kissing as more important early in a relationship and experienced more change in attraction (less attraction toward a partner who was initially attractive post-kiss).

Check out our other articles about kissing here.

Wlodarski, R. & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2013). Examining the possible functions of kissing in romantic relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0190-1