The Kissing Experiment

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | June 8, 2009 9:05 am

Update: Thanks to all who have participated in the kissing survey. The polls are now closed, but my associated cognitive neuroscience experiment begins next week. You can follow the research live on Twitter @Sheril_.

My next book deals with a subject I’ve written extensively about on and off the blog. I even helped to facilitate a popular symposium at last years AAAS meeting on topic…

The Science of Kissing will be an interdisciplinary look at why and how we kiss, drawing on neuroscience, classical history, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and popular culture. Without giving away too much detail, I’ll say that it’s been extremely interesting to compose so far and more fascinating than I ever imagined.  And then I got to thinking…

Why merely report on the science when there are obvious next steps in research? So I did what anyone in my position would. I called up a neuroscientist. The wonderful Dr. David Poeppel has kindly agreed to help me conduct a a cognitive neuroscience experiment next month and now I need you to help us plan the methodology.  Results will be featured in the book!

Here’s what to do: Below the fold you’ll see a 15 photos (labeled A-O) of couples kissing. We need you to help us categorize them into three groups:

1) erotic – passionate/sexually-charged kiss
2) friendship – kiss between friends
3) relationship – affectionate kiss implying commitment

I’m turning off comments on this post so responses won’t be biased.

To participate, email me ( with the list of letters (A-O) and corresponding rank (1, 2, or 3) based on how you perceive each image.

Names and contact information will not be shared or published.  Thanks to all for participating and please do encourage friends to take our survey as well!

(photos removed when survey ended)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Media and Science, Personal

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry.Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.comFor more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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