A recent address to the American Association for the Advancement for Sciences has some interesting findings about kissing. Being as non-romantic a caveman as likely exists on Earth (not to mention a long time interest in biochemistry) there were some interesting findings:
1. Kissing releases chemicals in the brain that act on cortisol, which in turn reduces the feelings of stress. That is, some of the “romantic feelings” one apparently feels while kissing isn’t so much romance, just general relief from stress. This has long been suspected, and really is not a surprise.
2. Kissing may give partners a chance to unconsciously analyze each other’s saliva to determine their fitness as a mate. I have my doubts …. I would need to see more studies on this before I accepted that this is happening too much.
3. In men, a kiss raises oxytocin levels, and increases their feelings of wanting to form stronger emotional bonds. Ladies: if you want to really plant that hook into your man, you need to spend some time kissing.
4. The oxytocin levels in women go down after kissing. This is a bit surprising. Oxytocin is, among other things, a hormone related to sexual excitement, so it seems that while there is a belief that kissing turns women on, it may in fact have the exact opposite effect. Why? Oxytocin, in addition to many other effects, also has a role in feelings of increasing trust and lowering fear. So, would be lotharios need to be cautious: kissing a strange woman will not put them into some kind of trance forcing her to fall madly in love. Rather, it may induce a state where she is more willing to question what is going on (BTW …. oxytocin in women is also tied to feelings of good maternal behavior, so kids thinking that they can quell an angry mommy with a kiss on the lips should also think twice!)
5. Can men fight back from this brainwashing? It turns out they might be able to. It seems that men have their own chemical weapons to deploy in a smooch. The saliva of men contains (get ready for a shock) testosterone. In addition to the obvious things, testosterone is a mild aphrodisiac for women. So, a long wet, sloppy kiss might have an unconscious effect on that special someone.
Happy belated St. Valentine’s Day!