Examining the Possible Functions of Kissing in Romantic Relationships

Abstract

Recent research suggests that romantic kissing may be utilized in human sexual relationships to evaluate aspects of a potential mate’s suitability, to mediate feelings of attachment between pair-bonded individuals, or to facilitate arousal and initiate sexual relations. This study explored these potential functions of romantic kissing by examining attitudes towards the importance of kissing in the context of various human mating situations. The study involved an international online questionnaire, which was completed by 308 male and 594 female participants aged 18–63 years. Support was found for the hypothesis that kissing serves a useful mate-assessment function: women, high mate-value participants, and participants high in sociosexual orientation placed greater importance on kissing in romantic relationships and stated that an initial kiss was more likely to affect their attraction to a potential mate than did men, low-mate value participants or low sociosexual orientation participants. Kissing also seemed to be utilized in the mediation of pair-bond attachments: kissing was seen to be more important at established stages of relationships by low sociosexual participants, kissing was generally seen as more important in long-term relationship contexts (but particularly so by women), and kissing frequency was found to be related to relationship satisfaction. The findings of this research showed very little evidence to support the hypothesis that the primary function of kissing is to elevate levels of arousal.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to acknowledge their colleagues at the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group for their valuable input and advice, particularly Jacques Launay and Eiluned Pearce. RW and RD are both supported by a European Research Council Advanced Grant to RD.

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Correspondence to Rafael Wlodarski.

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Wlodarski, R., Dunbar, R.I.M. Examining the Possible Functions of Kissing in Romantic Relationships. Arch Sex Behav 42, 1415–1423 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-013-0190-1

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Keywords

  • Romantic kissing
  • Pair-bonding
  • Attachment
  • Mate choice
  • Mate value
  • Sociosexual orientation