3 Scientific Facts About Kissing for Valentine’s Day

Science is only beginning to understand kissing.

Sebastian Ocklenburg, Ph.D.

1. Most of us turn our heads to the right side when kissing.

Have you ever paid attention to which side you turn your head to when kissing someone? Turns out, people have a preferred side to turn their head to when kissing and rarely turn to the other side. In a 2003 study from Germany, the author observed kissing couples in public places such as international airports, large railway stations, beaches, and parks in the United States, Germany, and Turkey (Güntürkün, 2003).  The result? Most of us are right-kissers! Overall, 64.5% of couples turned their heads to the right and 35.5% turned their heads to the left. It is likely that this preference to turn to the right results from early developmental head turning preferences, as newborns already show a bias to turn their heads to right when placed on their mother’s belly (Konishi et al., 1986). So while you are kissing someone on Valentine’s Day, ask yourself: Am I a right-kisser or a left-kisser?

2. Music can alter how the brain processes a kiss.

Most of us have experienced at some point in their lives how the right song can make a romantic situation magical – or how the wrong song can ruin it. A neuroimaging study from the University of Berlin (Pehrs et al., 2014) recently showed that which music we hear can directly influence how our brains process a kiss. Participants’ brains were scanned in an MRI scanner while they watched kissing scenes from romantic comedies like “Love Actually” or “When you were sleeping”. Additionally, while watching the kissing scenes, participants also listened to either sad music, happy music, or no music at all. The result? The processing of kissing scenes without music lead to activations in brain areas related to visual perception such as the occipital cortex and brain areas related to emotion processing such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Interestingly, listening to happy, but not sad, music while watching kissing scenes lead to additional activations in the temporal lobe in an area that has been related to multisensory integration of emotion. Moreover, both happy and sad music changed how brain areas in the emotion processing network were interacting which each other, leading to a different emotional experience in the participants. So while you are preparing for your Valentine’s Day date (which might involve planning to kiss someone), be aware that the right tune playing in the background might make all the difference.

3. More kissing leads to less stress and happier relationships.

In a 2009 study by researchers from Arizona State University, two groups of couples in romantic relationships were compared with regard to stress levels, relationship satisfaction, and several health parameters reflected in bloodwork (Floyd et al., 2009). In one group, couples were instructed to increase the frequency of kissing for a period of six weeks. The other group received no such instructions. After six weeks, the scientists tested the two groups of couples with different psychological tests and also drew blood from them. The result? The couples who had been instructed to kiss more reported higher relationship satisfaction and experienced less stress. Importantly, not only the subjective psychological variables improved. The couples who kissed more also had lower total serum cholesterol levels in their blood, indicating that kissing has tangible healthy benefits. So if you kiss someone this Valentine’s Day, it might not only make you feel better, it could also help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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