Whether it’s a soft peck on the cheek or a passionate encounter of lips, a kiss is an exceedingly rich and complex exchange of postural, tactile, and chemical cues that can have profound consequences for romantic relationships, report psychologists from the University of Albany in the Journal for Evolutionary Biology. As evidence of just how biologically important this exchange can be, one study found that 59 percent of men and 66 percent of women have experienced a first kiss as a "deal breaker".
The Albany researchers also found a marked difference in the preferred style of kissing. Male students preferred overall wetter kisses than their female fellow students and showed a greater preference for tongue contact and open-mouth kissing. The researchers speculate that males are unconsciously looking to maximize saliva exchange, which provides clues about fertility and may also allow the male to exchange hormones, including testosterone, which passes directly through the membranes of the mouth into the bloodstream and can boost female libido. Because men are less chemo-sensitive than women, men may need more saliva than women just to pick up the clues.
When participants were asked if they would have sex with someone without kissing first, more than half of the males responded positively, but only one in seven females would consider having sex without kissing first. When asked to rate kissing as an important ingredient in forming a relationship and in bonding, women rated kissing overall more important than males. Women also felt that someone’s being a good kisser was not a good enough reason to start a relationship. Interestingly, for short-term relationships, both men and women preferred wetter kisses, probably to maximize the hormone exchange and heat things up.
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