Kiss and tell

By Phil Plait | October 11, 2010 7:04 am

scienceofkissingMy fellow Hive Overmind blogger Sheril Kirshenbaum has written a book called The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us which will be out in January. I’m looking forward to reading it! I find kissing fascinating.

Well, duh. But not just for prurient reasons. I’ve always wondered about the role it’s played in evolution and biology. Why would kissing have anything to do with either showing affection or promoting sexual activity? Sheril has written about this before, but promises to go into more detail in the book.

Over at The Intersection, she has a short video interview she did talking about the book, and some of the experiments done about kissing. It’s a good interview, and made me want to read the book even more. It may seem silly at first, studying kissing. But it clearly plays a huge role in human sexuality, as well as in the societies of other primates. Any time we study our behavior we learn about ourselves. And our behavior — like science itself — is a rich tapestry, interwoven with many interlocking threads. Every piece relates with every other, and we need to follow all those threads without fear or embarrassment if we want to understand ourselves.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science

Comments (26)

  1. Ross Cunniff

    Is this a kissing book?

    </obPB>

  2. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    Phil Plait:

    [...] It may seem silly at first, studying kissing. But it clearly plays a huge role in human sexuality, as well as in the societies of other primates. Any time we study our behavior we learn about ourselves. [...]

    As demonstrated here:

    :P

  3. Tezcatlipoca

    Those are primates, not monkeys… ;p

  4. Damn, Ross beat me to the punch…

    I do find it funny how prudish and downright contradictory our behaviours and limits imposed by society can be. Just look at the US for a hyper-sexed culture, with deep Puritanical guilt/strictures. Just asking for trouble I say. (And compare that to a much more sane apprach as one often sees in Scnadinavian cultures.)

  5. Chris

    I wanted to do research into kissing, but whenever I tried to recruit test subjects I always got slapped.

  6. bob

    Short version: kissing evolved from mothers pushing pre-masticated food into their infant’s mouth.

    Still think Freud was wrong?

  7. Ivan! That video is gross (and hilarious!). (Phil: thanks for sharing this. Looking forward to Sheril’s book.)

  8. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    @Tezcatlipoca,

    I’m not responsible for YouTube video titles. :P

    @Darlene,

    I’m glad that you found that video hilarious! :-)

  9. Icewings

    @bob ,

    Is it scientifically acceptable to say, “EWWWWWWWWW!!!”?

    Because seriously, ICK.

    I love love love kissing. It can tell you so much about a person. How aggressive they are, how reciprocal they are, how healthy they are…Maybe that’s why we kiss. To find a quality mate?

  10. French-kissing your significant other: Awesome

    Using significant other’s toothbrush: Gross!

  11. My cat licks my hair when I’m sleeping. Does that count and what does it say about evolution?

  12. CafeenMan: I don’t know what it says about evolution, but maybe you should stop using Star-Kist shampoo! :)

  13. Michelle R

    I dunno about kissing, but my birds puke into each others mouth to say they appreciate each other’s company. Like “Hey I’m sharing my half-digested food with you! I wub you!”

    …maybe we were trying to do the same before? :D

  14. Sili

    Kirschenbaum wrote a book?!!

  15. Lucas

    Is kissing a universal human behavior? I thought I heard about some cultures where kissing does not occur at all (though I never followed up on the claim I heard to see if it were true).

  16. Grand Lunar

    “Every piece relates with every other, and we need to follow all those threads without fear or embarrassment if we want to understand ourselves.”

    I wonder if it can help understand my relative lack of involvement in this particular activity!

  17. Michael Suttkus, II

    “I find kissing fascinating.

    “Well, duh. But not just for prurient reasons. I’ve always wondered about the role it’s played in evolution and biology.”

    I’m glad you put the “just” in there, or I would have felt the need to correct you. : – )

  18. JohnW

    CafeenMan – maybe your cat is naturally selecting you?

    I thought kissing developed as a means to share germs, and therefore share/equalize disease resistance?

  19. Glad you’re interested in SoK Phil! It’s been neat to see these questions in the comment thread because the book addresses many of them from anthropology to “cooties.” I hope you enjoy it!

  20. MadScientist

    Given various demonstrations of Sheril’s inability to comprehend some basic research skills along with the previous book debacle, I’ll skip this one. I think I’ll wait for the reviews and have a good laugh. Aren’t some of us scientists just horrible?

  21. @bob – Evidence?

    @Sili – COTW! Oh wait… wrong blog….

    @madscientist – Links perhaps? If she’s not reputable I’d like to know about that before reading the book. I’ve not heard of her before.

  22. Daniel

    My wife received an advance copy of the book and enjoyed it VERY much!

  23. QuietDesperation

    You know, sometimes science *does* take the fun out of things. :-P

    I dunno about kissing, but my birds puke into each others mouth to say they appreciate each other’s company.

    In France that’s how you compliment the cook in a restaurant. It’s true. Read it on the ‘tubes.

  24. I just liked how you worked ‘prurient’ into a blog post. A good chunk of the English speaking world has no idea what that word means. Learning is good!

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »