Take the 2-minute tour ×
Skeptics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for scientific skepticism. It's 100% free, no registration required.

From COSMOS Magazine - Science of Smooching (2007):

Mystery still surrounds the motive for that very first kiss.

As anthropologist Helen Fisher, of Rutgers University in New Jersey, notes, many species engage in behaviour that looks suspiciously similar.

  • "When you find something in 90 per cent of cultures around the world and you also find it in a great many mammalian species, that's something innate," says Fisher.


Some trace the evolutionary origins of the kiss to mouth-to-mouth feeding of offspring, a behaviour observed in many species of birds and mammals.


Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University in Atlanta, thinks kissing evolved as a way of communicating good intentions.


However, not everyone is convinced that kissing is a product of evolution.

  • "Kissing is a behaviour that's 100 per cent learned and it has absolutely nothing to do with genetics," says Vaughn Bryant, professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University in College Station, USA. "If it were innate, everybody would be doing it — and they're not."

Bryant thinks kissing began as a way of screening potential partners by scent.

My Question(s):

  • Does kissing have an evolutionary or cultural origin?
  • What's currently the most prominent theory (the one most scientists agree on)?
share|improve this question
To me, it just seems like your average pre-programmed instinctive behavior. Like cats purring when they are happy or kneading their paws. –  Mark Rogers Mar 19 '11 at 15:50
Well, that's the thing; conquerors would have brought it with them, so that now it seems universal -- but there were certainly many places where as a ritual it didn't really pre-exist the various European invasions. (It's definitely more culture than nature, is all I'm trying to say.) –  Joseph Weissman Mar 29 '11 at 1:09
If I remember correctly from my college psychology class, one of the reasons we kiss is probably related to how the lips are one of the most sensitive areas of our bodies. Hands and sexual organs are also pretty high up there. –  James Apr 1 '11 at 3:47
It could be backwards - kissing is evolutionary, and LACK of kissing was some sort of cultural or later-imposed-environmental result for some cultures –  DVK Jan 20 '12 at 16:41
What i have heard is that kissing is to cross expose the 2 partners to each other's diseases. This would help the immune system int he long run, especially for the mother. –  Andrey Sep 28 '12 at 13:23
show 5 more comments

closed as off-topic by Sklivvz Mar 14 at 0:22

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question doesn't identify a specific notable claim. Please add a reference to and quote from the published text which contains the specific claim you want to question." – Sklivvz
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1 Answer

Scienceline - Why do humans kiss?

Today, the most widely accepted theory of kissing is that humans do it because it helps us sniff out a quality mate. When our faces are close together, our pheromones “talk” – exchanging biological information about whether or not two people will make strong offspring.

share|improve this answer
The article you cite isn't peer reviewed and doesn't cite peer reviewed material. It's written by a journalist. It's less authoritative than the claims in the question. It's a mystery to me how it got 3 upvotes in a short time frame. –  Christian Feb 18 '13 at 19:42
The only thing that is cited/credited in that posting is the photo of the band KISS. And if that is the "widely accepted" reason, I would like to see some sort of study or research that was done by a reputable source that is stating this. –  Cruril Feb 18 '13 at 19:48
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.