Daily Bulletin

News

  • Written by Rob Brooks, Scientia Professor of Evolutionary Ecology; Academic Lead of UNSW's Grand Challenges Program, UNSW

Why do people like to kiss? Do other animals kiss? Why are kisses so gross? — Gracie, age 5.

Curious Kids: why do people like to kiss? Do other animals kiss?

Gracie, you ask a question that puzzled me too when I was about your age. Why would two people want to smoosh their mouths together?

And I don’t just mean: “why does Aunty insist on kissing me to say hello when we visit for Easter lunch?”

I mean teenagers and adult couples — in real life and on TV — all of whom seemed to love long, sloppy kisses. That must be especially confusing for you now, after everything we’ve been told about social distancing because of the coronavirus.

Curious Kids: why do people like to kiss? Do other animals kiss? Romance was definitely different during the pandemic. Shutterstock

For people who enjoy kissing, however, the answer is simple: “it feels good”. And they’re not lying, it often does. But that’s not a very good answer to your question.

If you have a younger sister or brother, you will know what’s coming next: “but why does kissing feel good?”

Well, that’s a question even scientists have found tricky to answer. And I’m not sure the answers so far are very satisfying. But let’s see what you think.

Kissing brings people together

Kissing seems to be important when people are first attracted to one another, like when they’ve got a crush on each other. To get close enough to kiss someone, you have to trust that person a lot and let them into your personal space.

If you don’t like somebody enough to kiss them, that’s a sign to them that they should look somewhere else for a girlfriend or boyfriend.

And, kissing aside, sometimes it might feel wrong just to touch another person’s skin. Or you may not like how they smell.

These are examples of our bodies telling us what we can’t put into words. In this case, they’re telling us we aren’t a good match with that person.

As adults, kissing can help us decide if another person is the right person to start a family with (if this is something both people want). Chances are if two people don’t enjoy kissing, they aren’t attracted enough to stay together long enough to raise a child.

Read more: Curious Kids: how did the first person evolve?

If both people do like and trust each other enough to kiss, they’ll probably kiss quite often. The good shared feelings they get from this makes them like and trust each other even more, and eventually that might lead to starting a family.

Some research has shown that couples benefit from kissing even after they’ve been together for many years. In one study, couples who agreed to kiss each other more often were happier with each another and with their lives than couples who carried on as normal.

Two older men touch foreheads Kissing is one way people can build trust and closeness, which helps them stay together for a long time. Shutterstock

Back to those germs

When I was in primary school, my friends referred to kissing as “swapping germs”. It’s true that kissing a person exposes you to their germs. But that might actually help explain why we do it.

If you’re going to spend time in a relationship, you’re going to be exposed to another person’s germs. So if we aren’t prepared to kiss somebody because they might make us sick, we surely won’t want to live with them.

And if we do decide to kiss someone we like, the nice feelings we get help us worry less about catching their germs.

Not everybody kisses

Other animals in nature appear to kiss sometimes. Common and bonobo chimpanzees give each other big wet kisses quite often, which look like human romantic kissing.

Chimpanzees kiss in a tree Aww, isn’t that cute? Shutterstock

But, surprisingly, kissing isn’t something all humans do. Nearly everywhere in the world, there is some kind of loving kiss between parents and children. This is not “romantic”. And not all people kiss romantically.

One big scientific study looked at 168 different groups of people, from small communities that gather and hunt their own food, to bigger and busier cities. These experts found romantic kissing was common in less than half (46%) of the groups.

People from non-kissing cultures who live in sub-Saharan Africa, New Guinea, or the Amazon rainforest find it either funny or disgusting when shown photos of kissing. Then again, they have other ways of touching one another that probably help them build trust and keeps them feeling close.

Romantic kissing is more common in big, complex places where there are many different people living many different lives.

Being able to find and keep a partner is less simple in these settings, which may be why kissing becomes an important part of trying to find a romantic partner.

There are plenty of mysteries wrapped up in a romantic kiss, both for scientists to unravel and for the people doing the kissing to find out. So, if it sounds like I don’t know the exact answer — that’s why.

Authors: Rob Brooks, Scientia Professor of Evolutionary Ecology; Academic Lead of UNSW's Grand Challenges Program, UNSW

Read more https://theconversation.com/curious-kids-why-do-people-like-to-kiss-do-other-animals-kiss-157322

Writers Wanted

The ebb and flow of COVID-19 vaccine support: what social media tells us about Australians and the jab

arrow_forward

Cyclone Seroja just demolished parts of WA – and our warming world will bring more of the same

arrow_forward

New Zealand’s new housing policy is really just a new tax package — and it’s a shambles

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered Keynote Address at AFR Business Summit

Well, thank you all for the opportunity to come and be with you here today. Can I also acknowledge the Gadigal people, the Eora Nation, the elders past and present and future. Can I also acknowled...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Morrison Government commits record $9B to social security safety net

The Morrison Government is enhancing our social security safety net by increasing support for unemployed Australians while strengthening their obligations to search for work.   From March the ...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.   HADLEY: I was just referring to this story from the Courier Mail, which you’ve probably caught up with today about t...

Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison - avatar Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison

Business News

Step by Step Moving Guide for Moving an Office

Compromising office hours, carrying bulk equipment, moving sensitive files — office relocation is no cakewalk. There is so much to do when you want to relocate your office. Aside from the major tas...

News Co - avatar News Co

5 Effective Employee Retention Strategies You Can Apply to Your Organization

Your employees are the lifeblood of your organization. No matter how great you think your company is, without the right talents to keep your business up and running, all your efforts to rise above...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

5 Reasons Why Organizational Culture is Crucial to Your Business

You have probably heard a lot about organizational culture and companies finding ways to create a positive culture in the workplace, but not so much about the reasons why it even matters to busine...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media