University of Oxford. Kissing helps us find the right partner – and keep them
A study by Oxford University researchers suggests kissing helps us size up potential partners and, once in a relationship, may be a way of getting a partner to stick around.
The researchers report their findings in two papers, one in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior and the second in the journal Human Nature. They were funded by the European Research Council.
Belinda Luscombe at Time magazine calls it a Mating Audition
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A new study out of Oxford University suggests that kissing may actually have a purpose beyond the obvious — it’s a mating audition. Potential mates are doing a taste test. And that could explain why women and guys who think they’re good-looking enjoy it more than other people do.
How does a kiss determine mateworthiness? It’s not really clear, but some philematologists (those are the people who study kissing) believe that it has to do with smell. In her book The Science of Kissing, Sheril Kirshenbaum cites Claus Wedekind, who she says found that “women are most attracted to the scent of men who have a very different genetic code for their immune system in a region of DNA known as the major histocompatibility complex.” Having different DNA from the individual you are kissing heightens the chance of having healthy offspring should the kissing lead somewhere. And juxtaposing two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction is usually more fun than having a genetic test.
Women in the study also ranked kissing as more important for longer relationships, suggesting it was a way of communicating and enhancing affection and attachment. In fact, more kissing was strongly correlated than more sex with a higher-quality relationship (although the people who had a lot of both had the highest relationship satisfaction). Moreover, the researchers suggest that although kissing does cause arousal, arousal doesn’t seem to be what is driving people to kiss.