December 9, 2013

Kiss Me Well Once, Kiss Me Twice: Romantic Function of Kissing

How much does that first kiss matter in retaining a mate? How important is kissing in romantic relationships? New research has answers.

Print More

Ah, the first kiss, you know the feeling: butterflies in the stomach, anticipation building, wondering who will make the first move. You’ve played it over in your head, maybe even in your dreams, and you’re left hoping the real thing will live up to the expectations.

Then…finally…the kiss happens. What kind of implications do kisses have on attraction and relationships?

Well a study recently published in Archives of Sexual Behavior examined this very research question. They wanted to know about the function of kissing in romantic relationships. Researchers Wlodarski and Dunbar, from the Department of Experimental Psychology at University of Oxford, distributed an online survey internationally to 308 men and 594 women between the ages of 18 and 63 to further understand the complexities of kissing.

Before I get into what they found, there are a couple of important definitions that will help put the findings into context:

  • Mate-Value: Measured by overall self-rated physical and sexual attractiveness (which is typically highly correlated to peer-rated attractiveness) and genetic quality. The potential value of one as a mate.
  • Sociosexual Orientation: Openness to short-term, casual sexual encounters. Those who score higher on sociosexual orientation are more open to casual sexual encounters. Those who score lower on sociosexual orientation prefer emotional commitment and a love connection prior to sexual encounters.

The overall findings of the study were twofold, such that kissing within romantic relationships serves two main functions: 1) assessment of a mate prior to becoming attached, and 2) mediating attachment in longer-term relationships.

The researchers found that kissing in romantic relationships was most important to women who were of high mate-value and scored high on sociosexual orientation. These high-scoring mate-value and sociosexual orientation women were also more likely to indicate that the initial kiss was likely to impact their attraction to a potential mate.

So if you’re interested in a woman with high mate-value and sociosexual orientation, based on this research you’d better make sure that first kiss is a good one and the kisses keep flowing throughout the relationship! Keep in mind, this is only one piece of the complex puzzle of attraction and attachment. Check out the importance of desire, communication, sexual compatibility, and sexual and relationship satisfaction to further understand some of the other important pieces.