Bad Astronomy

Kiss and Tell

Why do we kiss?

It’s a weird ritual. As a scientist I don’t know much about it (as a human, of course, I am an Olympic medalist) – why we do it, what neurological events it triggers, how it may have developed as a behavioral pattern. Why would mashing your lips against someone else’s be of any use? Or brushing their cheek with your lips? And licking? Really?

Very strange.

And there are so many kinds! We kiss someone hello, we kiss them goodbye, we kiss when we show friendship, or when we’re proud of someone, or when we are in love, or when we want to instigate sex. Who can make sense of all this?

My fellow Hive Overmind blogger Sheril Kirshenbaum is trying to. She’s writing a book called The Science of Kissing, and she’s running an experiment at her blog, The Intersection; she’s asking readers to look at 15 photos of people kissing, and to categorize them into the type of kiss: friendly, erotic, or relationship. To avoid bias, comments are turned off and she’s asking folks to email her with their answers. Results will be published in her book!

So head over there, look at pictures of people necking, and send in your thoughts.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this turns out. Looking over the pictures, I discovered a couple of things about categorizing kissing I hadn’t thought of before. While I’m not an expert at kissing (the Olympics medal was a fluke due to the East German judge) I’ve been doing it a while, so I was surprised to see some trends in the pictures I hadn’t considered before. What do you see?