The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us

By: Sheril Kirshenbaum

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In The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, author Sheril Kershenbaum takes readers on an entertaining and scientific exploration of kissing, looking at the reasons why we kiss and how kisses affect our bodies and brains. Beginning with the theories on why humans began kissing and continuing through an investigation of the cultural and social implications of a kiss, Ms. Kershebaum tries to track down the possible origins of the first kisses. She then delves into the effects kissing can have on the human body from all the wonderful feelings one can evoke to the "dirty" side of lip-locking, germs. The author also conducted her own experiment on the effect of kissing on the human brain with some surprising results, and even wraps up with ten scientifically proven ways to become a better kisser. Romantics and armchair scientists alike will be entertained by this fascinating journey through the science behind one of the oldest human behaviors.


I happen to be a hopeless romantic who is also fascinated by science, so the minute I saw The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, I knew I had to read it. One might think that a scientific book on kissing might destroy the romanticism of the act, but for me, it did the exact opposite. It actually reinforced many of my romantic notions while explaining the logic and biology behind this most common of relational behaviors. Rather than writing a traditional review, I thought I would share some of the fascinating highlights and things I learned from this book:

  • Although the evolutionary origins of the kiss cannot be found with absolute certainty, there are some very interesting theories of how kissing started.
  • Many other animal species have kiss-like behaviors. I've seen things like this in nature documentaries and always thought that it was cute and intriguing that humans aren't the only ones who "kiss."
  • Some cultures don't kiss or even find it disgusting. This has lessened considerably since globalization has taken hold, but there are still a few places in the world where kissing remains taboo.
  • Men and women have very different views on kissing with women placing much more importance on the act. This may be because women have a stronger sense of smell and taste than men, which could make getting up close and personal a way of sensing compatible DNA in a mate through scent.
  • Studies seems to suggest that men can subconsciously detect when a woman is ovulating, perhaps through distinct but subtle odors which a woman puts off at that time of the month.
  • Kissing may be one of the germiest activities in which we engage, but there are also many health benefits that can outweigh or at least level the playing field.
  • Serotonin levels in someone who has just fallen in love are similar to those found in someone suffering from OCD. (I found this fact highly amusing.:-))
  • The lips take up more neural space than any other part of the body including the genitals.
  • Some studies on kissing, including one conducted by the author herself while researching the book, have yielded highly unanticipated results, and equally surprisingly, there has been rather limited research done on this topic, leaving a wide playing field for future scientific investigation.
  • Overall, the simple act of kissing does some pretty amazing things to our bodies, and intellectually understanding the chemical reactions involved could actually help us to more wisely choose our mate.

Any of this sound intriguing? It certainly was to me. Not only did it stimulate the geeky part of my brain, it also has inspired me to kiss my husband more frequently and thoroughly.;-) Don't be fooled into thinking this might be one of those dull, boring science books. Sheril Kershenbaum has a wonderful writing style that is engaging, informative and easy-to-understand all rolled into one. The Science of Kissing definitely satisfied both the romantic and the armchair scientist in me. It was a wholly enjoyable book that has earned a spot on my keeper shelf. Now that I've read it, I don't think I'll ever view a kiss in quite the same way again...but that's a good thing.:-)

Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, Hachette Book Group, in exchange for my review.


Sheril Kirshenbaum