Happy Valentine’s Day: the science behind why we kiss

Kissing is one of the most natural ways that we express love and affection, but have you ever wondered about exactly why we developed this type of physical expression (besides that it feels good)? It's Okay To Be Smart's Joe Hanson looked into the science behind kissing, and he talks about it in the above video.

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Many animals display kissing-like behaviours, licking, nuzzling or grooming each other (or us). Chimpanzees have been known to kiss and nibble at each other's lips. Bonobos suck on each others' tongues. Kissing is not necessarily an entirely instinctual thing though, since not all human cultures practice it. Some express affection using something more akin to nuzzling. One example is the Inuit kunik, which is when someone presses their nose and lips against a loved-one's skin or hair and breathes in (typically between mother and child or grandparents and grandchildren). This was mistaken for kissing by early explorers and led to what's known as 'Eskimo kissing' — where two people rub the tips of their noses together. However, the Inuit people still kiss, just like most other cultures do.

If you're interested in the book that Hanson mentions at the end of the video there's a great interview with the author, Sheril Kirshenbaum on NPR.com.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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