How do you like your kisses, wet or dry? If you've
never stopped to ponder the deep psychological
ramifications of your answer, fear not: U.S.
researchers are on the case.
They have discovered in research published in the
paper Evolutionary Psychology, that a kiss is
definitely not just a kiss. Planting a wet one on
your sweetie is, in fact, a deliberate step in a
mating dance choreographed by millennia of evolution.
According to the study of 1,041 college students at
the University at Albany, men and women kiss for
very different reasons - and we're hard-wired to
prefer different techniques.
Women kiss to assess the commitment of a mate - is
he really that into me? - while men kiss as a means
to an end - let's get it on.
The study determined that men like their kisses
wetter and with more tongue: To be precise, 33 per
cent wetter and with 11 per cent more tongue, on
average, than women do.
Blame our differences not on Mars and Venus, but on
evolutionary history, researchers say. Women use
kissing as pre-sex screening to determine whether
their partner is healthy and sufficiently bonded to
stick around for the long haul of child rearing.
Men's biological imperative tells them to hit it and
quit it, the better to share their DNA with more
"From an evolutionary perspective, the costs and
consequences for reproduction are dramatically
different for females and males," says Gordon Gallup,
a psychology professor at the University at Albany,
State University of New York, who co-authored the
"Insemination is the name of the game for males,
while insemination is the mere beginning of the
reproductive process for females. So females put a
lot of emphasis on making judicious mate choices."
Of course, college students aren't thinking about
judicious mate choices when they grab someone cute
to snog at last call. But evolutionary habits die
hard, researchers say.
"This all happens on a very subconscious level,"
says study co-author Susan Hughes, an assistant
professor of psychology at Albright College in
She acknowledges that what's true for college
students may not hold for older adults; but, she
notes, college students are in their reproductive
prime, from an evolutionary if not an emotional
Women in the study rate kissing as more important
than men do at all stages of a relationship. Men are
much more likely to skip to the main event: 53 per
cent said they would have sex with someone without
kissing, compared with only 15 per cent of women.
Men are also much more likely to have sex with
someone who's a bad kisser.
Nice-looking teeth and lips figure strongly in
women's decision whether to kiss someone, and their
kissing partner's breath and mouth taste is
Men, meanwhile, are more concerned with their
potential partner's body shape and weight, and they
say a good kiss includes their partner making
"At the moment of a kiss, there is an exceedingly
rich and complex exchange of postural, tactile and
chemical cues," the study says.
Men may have an ulterior motive for preferring
wetter kisses, Dr. Gallup says. Swapping spit
involves an exchange of hormones, and one hormone in
male saliva is testosterone, which increases female
arousal, thus increasing the chances for sex.
One thing men and women seem to agree on: Kissing
can nip a relationship in the bud as easily as it
can spark a romance.
A separate survey conducted by Dr. Gallup found that
59 per cent of men and 66 per cent of women said
they'd lost attraction for someone after kissing
them for the first time.
Does scientific analysis suck the romance out of
kissing? Smooch expert Michael Christian thinks so.
Sure, men's and women's kissing styles differ, but "there
are more similarities than differences," says Mr.
Christian, who wrote The Art of Kissing under the
name William Cane. He thinks the psychology
researchers may have overlooked one obvious
motivation for puckering up: It's pleasurable.
"We all experience oral pleasure," Mr. Christian
says. "That's one of the greatest things uniting
people all over the globe. They enjoy it because it
Still, Mr. Christian can't argue with the statistics
collected by the University at Albany researchers.
The No. 1 complaint he hears from women is that men
kiss with too much tongue, and men's No. 1 complaint
is that women don't use enough tongue.
Mr. Christian complains that an evolutionary
approach tends to unfairly paint women as the
romantic ones and men as sex-crazed, when in reality
it's a bit of both.
"Men also get romantic pleasure and connection from
kissing, and both men and women will use kissing to
advance to more intimate sexual acts," Mr. Christian
says. "... We're all sensitive people - Marvin Gaye
said that, and he was right. Women have a sexual
side that's very powerful as well."
For Dr. Gallup and his study co-authors, romance is
just another evolved courtship strategy. As for that
fluttery feeling you get when you kiss your beloved?
"The romance is an evolutionary cue that prompts and
leads to the creation of pair bonds that are
absolutely crucial to the survival of the young,"
Dr. Gallup says.
Remember: when it comes to kissing as a form of
reconciliation, the percentage that thought kissing
a romantic partner could end a fight: Men 70.1% and
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