Under the Microscope: Kiss and tell

The science behind a smooch

Hannah Murray

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— It’s the peak of every good romantic movie. It’s the subject of songs and poems and art.

But what is it about a kiss that makes it worth all of the fuss?

When you think about it, kissing is a pretty strange concept, isn’t it? You literally press your face against another person’s face and it feels nice, for some reason.

If you’ve ever wondered why you get so tingly and happy when you kiss someone, you’ll be happy to learn that you have your body’s chemistry to thank.

Whenever you kiss someone, your brain is releasing a cocktail of feel-good chemicals into your body, resulting in all of those warm and fuzzies.

The first chemical we’ll talk about is oxytocin. This is often referred to as your “love hormone.” This hormone is responsible for stirring up feelings of affection and attachment.

This is the same hormone that is released exponentially when a woman experiences childbirth or breastfeeds and is largely responsible for strengthening the mother-baby bond.

Oxytocin isn’t the only hormone that your brain releases when you kiss someone. This is a cocktail, remember?

The next hormone that’s released is dopamine, which is your “happy chemical” that plays a big role in reward-motivated behavior.

Dopamine is released whenever you do something that feels good, like hugging or kissing someone you’re attracted to. This happy chemical is what makes you feel all giddy and euphoric and the more it’s released, the more you crave it.

In addition to releasing dopamine and oxytocin, kissing also stimulates a release of serotonin, which supports feelings of well-being and happiness, as well as a mood stabilizer.

As a response to some of these chemicals, your cortisol level is lowered, making you feel more relaxed.

Not only does your body’s hormonal cocktail make kissing a fun experience for all, but the structure of your lips also play a role.

Your lips are one of the most sensitive parts of your body, with a thin layer of skin and over one million nerve endings.

With all of these feel-good chemicals buzzing around your body and your lips packed full of nerve endings, it’s hard to miss why we like to kiss. But why did we ever start kissing in the first place?

The origins of kissing are somewhat of an enigma to the scientific community and no one answer is definite. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t theories.

Many scientists believe that kissing originated from the practice of kiss-feeding, where a mother would chew up food and feed their babies using mouth-to-mouth. This practice is similar to how birds feed their little chicks.

It’s still undetermined, however, whether a kiss is a natural process or whether it was a learned behavior. Approximately 90 percent of cultures practice kissing, with the other ten percent still engaging in some form of affectionate behavior, such as rubbing noses.

But if it were instinctual by nature, wouldn’t it mean animals would do it, too?

The fact is that many animals do engage in kissing-like behavior. Dogs sniff or lick their potential mates. Elephants put their trunks in each other’s mouths. Even bonobo apes, who humans share approximately 98.7 percent of their DNA with, kiss each other for comfort and socialization— much like humans.

While the why’s behind kissing may still be a mystery, the positive effects of kissing aren’t. With benefits such as boosting immunity and a natural de-stressor, it’s hard to deny that kissing offers more than just a good way to cap off a first date.