Kissing Engages Mating Radar and Leads to Better Health

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Kissing On Valentine's Day

Scientists have been busy exploring the biological effects and health impact of kissing. New evidence shows that kissing lowers our stress level, and conveys a variety of information that may not even reach us at a conscious level. It appears that kissing engages our mating radar in the brain. Kissing also leads to better health.

Kissing lowers stress hormones

Aside from lowering stress, measured by declines in cortisol levels in saliva, Helen Fisher tells us: "Kissing is not just kissing. It is a major escalation or de-escalation point in a powerful process of mate choice." It seems we subconsciously detect smells that tell us about our partner's immune system.

Fisher is an anthropologist who studies love and author of "Why Him, Why Her: Finding Real Love by Understanding Your Personality Type". She is also a professor at Rutgers University,

It also seems that the longer we are with our partner the lower our cortisol levels become when we kiss -more proof that intimacy is good for your health.

Cortisol is a stress hormone. High levels are thought to increase our risk of a variety of diseases. The stress reducing benefits of the kiss come from Wendy Hill, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Lafayette College, in Easton, Pa. and were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Kissing transmits biological information that innately tells us whether to choose or ditch a potential partner. Women are more attracted to men who have opposite immune system function from their own.

According to Fisher, the somatosensory cortex, which extends from one side of the brain to the other, has a large portion devoted to picking up signals from the lips, tongue, nose and cheek areas around the mouth. "You can really get poked in the back and not feel it very much, but just a feather around your lips and you really do feel it."


Kissing serves a purpose

People who study kissing are known as philematologists – nice work if you can get it. Philematologists are finding that kissing really has purpose.

Women kiss to gain intimacy and assess their men. Men kiss as a prelude to sex. Gordon Gallup Jr., Ph.D., a psychologist at the State University of New York at Albany studied 1000 undergraduate students in 2007. He says, "Females are much more prone to use kissing as a mate-assessment device." A "bad" kiss can end a relationship instantly. Not so for men - Gallup found that men are more than willing to have sex without even kissing, while most women would not even consider having sex without a kiss.

A note of caution includes making sure your kissing partner is healthy. There is no question that mononucleosis, herpes, and herpes related viruses are passed on during kissing. Fortunately, most diseases from sharing a kiss have only a slight impact on human health.

Kissing may also elevate dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a powerful chemical that tells our brain we are experiencing pleasure. Kissing can create a sense of euphoria.

Beginning a relationship with a kiss tells us much about our partner. A kiss can either make or break a partnership.

Scientific interest in kissing makes it mandatory that we all keep up with the health benefits of kissing. Men – take note: Kissing may raise testosterone levels. She will not sleep with you if you deny her the all-important, information sharing, and biologically important kiss.

Studies reveal there are everyday health benefits to be gained from kissing, including, but not limited to, lower stress levels, subconscious processing of information by the brain, increased testosterone levels in men and a sense of euphoria for all.

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Updated 5/16/2014