The Science of Kissing by Sheril Kirshenbaum [Book Summary – Review]


Kissing is extremely necessary for our romantic hours with a person we love. Without a fiery kissing part, wouldn’t it be a Hollywood film about passionate love?

But in this summary, you will find more about kissing. While kissing has many different useful concerns for people and society, many of the animals- like hedgehogs- can also kiss for an acceptable purpose. In this text, you will be able to learn the most up-to-date information about the study of kissing in addition to what we already know about the beneficial reaction of kissing on our mind and our body.


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Chapter 1 – We have coded the touch of the lip with the skin as a symbol of passion and reliance since the first days of our lives.


Have you ever thought that many people like to kiss but don’t wonder why they love doing this? The reason we love kissing is because of our biological structure.

As the physical thing we do with pleasure in the first stage of our lives, we can say that our mothers are breastfeeding to feed us. We use our lips instinctively to feed ourselves from our mothers’ breasts. When babies are still in the womb, they have the habit of sucking fingers and pursing their lips to feed after birth. This form of lip purse that they do naturally for feeding is the shape of the lip while kissing.

Breastfeeding is very relaxing for a newborn. Mothers often breastfeed their babies in secure and peaceful places. Thus, the baby encodes the soft touch on her lips with a sense of trust and love.

Premastication, which means chewing food in the mouth and giving it to another with the mouth, was one of the most useful methods applied for thousands of years to feed infants and kids. This feeding process also associated the touch of the lips with good emotions.

Premastication, kiss-feeding, can be considered nauseous from today’s perspective. However, crushed baby food, which is sold ready-made in the markets, is a fairly new finding, so chewing the food in the mouth was a necessary alternative for ending breastfeeding.



Some animals including apes and birds also apply the method of pre-chewing foods, and humans still use this in different parts of the world. The first evidence that this method was used appeared in the Ancient Egyptian records. According to one study, 39 of 119 advanced societies studied still make use of pre-chewing as a continuation of tradition or for different purposes, such as infection deterrence.

Premastication has different benefits besides developing emotions of trust, loyalty, and love of a newborn. At the same time, the effective emotions created by the contact established between the lips and the breast are transferred to the contact of the lips of two people, and the effective emotional and behavioral basis for the kissing act discovered later is strengthened.

And our tendency to act of kissing is not just about love and trust; you can learn more information about kissing in the following sections.


Chapter 2 – Kissing-prone actions have many social implications for both humans and animals.


Have you ever wondered why the letter “x” is used to symbolize kissing? This is a question that can be answered based on the historical period.

In the past, people have practiced kissing in many different situations. In the Middle Ages, for example, it was a symbolic action that often binds written treaties.

The area in the agreement, which will be kissed by those persons who have ratified the treaty was scratched with the letter “x”. For example, we write “x’s” for kissing in today’s online messaging applications. This is how we symbolize the act of kissing for so many years.

Also, in the Middle Ages, people used the act of kissing according to the social hierarchy of the people. Your position in the community regulated where and how you would kiss when you meet someone. People who appeared before a priest kissed the tip of the outfit he wore; when they came to the Pope’s side, they kissed his shoes and or rings. In the presence of a king, people bowed down and even kissed the land for respect.



Such kissing acts, which have a purpose in social life, are also applied among animals. Almost all animals exhibit acts similar to kissing, such as nose rubbing, snuffling, biting, grazing, or fondling. Ground squirrels touch each other’s snouts, moles knead their noses, turtles pat their belly, cats lick each other’s feathers, and hedgehogs rub. Bonobos, which are most similar to humans in animal life, kiss using their lips and tongues, just as we do.

All methods similar to “kissing” used by animals make it easier for them to share information and establish relationships with each other. Although we do not know the true meaning of these kissing-like-acts, their behaviors as kissing symbolize the trust of animals and their acceptance in the herd.”Kissing” refers to being put into the personal zone among animals and sharing the feelings of taste, touch, and smell.

Kissing is used in different situations for animals as well as for different expressions in human life. While the kiss of the possible couples symbolizes the desire to mate, the “kissing” between relatives or in the same community may have a completely different meaning.


Chapter 3 – Kissing is the best way to learn subconsciously whether we are compatible with a possible partner.


In the Back to the Future movie, Marty McFly travels in time and go to the past. There, when his mother, Lorraine, fell in love with Marty, he prevents his parents from coming across by accident. But Lorraine, Marty’s future mother, feels something wrong when she makes out with Marty. She says as if “I felt like kissing my brother!”

The subject of the movie is of course fictional, but there is a biological reality behind this situation. All humans and monkeys have their glands in their neck, face, armpits, and genital areas. Because of these glands, everyone’s smell is unlike anybody. A partner chosen for mating is usually someone who has a different smell than our scent. It is a reality that in terms of biological structure and health status, it is more likely to make more robust children with someone with a different odor.

MHC genes, which are vital in our immune system, are genes that help protect our cells from external aggressors. The wide variety of our MHC genes means that our immune system will provide much stronger protection.



MHC genes in DNA are formed by transferring the MHC genes in the mother and father to the child. As a result, a child whose parents have a wide variety of MHC genes will have a harder body defense system.

Accordingly, we tend to choose people with the scent showing that their MHC genes are divergent. Claus Wedekind conducted a prominent study in 1995, where he explored this issue. First, he asked the women in the research to sniff the t-shirts put on by diverse men, and then to choose the t-shirts with odor they thought was the most fragrant.

The women unwittingly chose the t-shirt worn by men with very different sequences in the MHC genes in their DNA. That’s why when she kissed Marty, Lorraine felt it was wrong. Although Loraine was not aware, she could feel that Marty’s genes are biologically the same as their own.


Chapter 4 – Kissing is beneficial to health and gives you a wonderful emotional state.


When you kissed a person, you felt the same wonderful emotions that people experienced when they used cocaine.

With kissing, you notice a blast of energy and a pleasant feeling in the brain. With kissing, inhale, and exhale become deeper and your blood vessels expand, which blushes you and more oxygen is carried to your brain.

Then some hormones that make you feel better to start to secrete in your body: adrenaline hormone that escalates your energy and heartbeat; the hormone serotonin that comforts you; and the dopamine hormone that makes you happy and want you more.

This is why you become addicted to kissing a person you love. After all, the act of kissing affects your brain activities in a similar way to cocaine! According to the researchers, it was provided that the serotonin hormone in the body of a person who’s recently fallen in love with someone is the same as the level of serotonin found in a person with the obsessive-compulsive syndrome. That’s no doubt why we become so obsessed when we fall in love with someone.

Also, the hormones of binding are secreted in your body, and the feelings of stress and fatigue reduce by kissing, so it can be said that kissing is beneficial for health.

Kissing provides the secretion of oxytocin, a “passion hormone” or “bonding hormone”, which increases the inner commitment between darlings and family members.



The influence of dopamine hormones is not very long-lasting, so your sexual passion for your spouse tends to decline gradually, but the oxytocin hormone is the hormone that underpins a long-lasting relationship. Oxytocin is also the cause of the pleasant shaking of women while having an orgasm. It is a reality that both men and women release five times the normal oxytocin hormone while having an orgasm.

With kissing, the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone that raises hypertension and negatively affects the body’s defense system, is significantly reduced. Having continuous high cortisol in your body risks your life because it is the source of heart-related problems, so anything that prevents the release of stress hormones is vital for your health.

As a result, kissing can act like an addictive drug in a short time, but it is a tool that builds up a real connection over time.


Chapter 5 – With kissing, breeding becomes easier, as desire, passion, and devotion appear.


I assume that you have somehow encountered the well-known Kama Sutra teachings about intercourse, passion, and couple based on Hindu culture. A part of the Kama Sutra is all about kissing.

Recent studies accept the act of kissing as described in Kama Sutra. After all, the act of kissing is a phase of human evolution: kissing increases your sexual desire and thus increases your chances of reproduction.

Lips consist of tender nerves that activate your limbic system, the region related to passion, desire, and affection in the brain. However, it is interesting that men and women can do kissing acts with different intentions.

Women consider kissing as a prerequisite for sexual intercourse. According to a survey, seven out of eight women would not think of sleeping with a man without kissing them first.



However, men have a different opinion about the act of kissing. Researchers have found that men use more of their tongue while kissing. According to one theory, men prefer to use their tongue because they give more testosterone, so women are more likely to sleep with them.

Kissing is a necessity of our biological structure. Although many societies in history tried to prevent the act of kissing, it always remained indispensable.

For example, different leaders and states wanted to ban kissing, as they did to prevent the spread of the Great Plague of London in 1665. Under a law enacted in South Africa, they tried to prohibit children under 16 from kissing until 2008 to prevent the expansion of HIV.

The Catholic Church tried to prohibit kissing a couple of times for virtuous causes because people who kissed have more desire to have sex. But the prohibitions were futile; the act of kissing is a biologically instinctive part of us.


The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us by Sheril Kirshenbaum Book Review


We are programmed to kiss biologically and evolutionarily, so it is a basic act for humans and animals. It builds up our communal ties, contributes to our health and happiness, makes it easier for us to find suitable partners, and desire for having sex and ensures the continuity of our lineage. Kissing means much more than a pleasant sensation.


Create an expectation.

It may sound as if you are reading something from a book of insincere romance, but there are scientific realities behind it. Before you kiss someone, become acquainted with him/her and create an expectation so that when you finally get your kiss, you will have a more satisfying adventure called dopamine.



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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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