When you think about it, kissing is weird. I mean, who thought of it first? I have a hard time seeing ancestor Lucy leaning in to apeman Steve in the moonlight, you know? Aside from chimps and bonobo monkeys, we are the only animals on earth that do it. So what's up with this symbol of affection? Is it a function of arousal or is there something deeper going on?
Discover Magazine published a great article revealing current research on this tradition. In the first experiment, scientists surveyed 902 participants between the ages of 18-63 years. The international questionnaire explored attitudes on the importance of kissing with regard to human mating situations. What they found was interesting; women and people desiring a long term relationship found kissing to be more important than men and people desiring a short term relationship. These results seem to indicate that a kiss, in some unknown capacity, is a way for us to evaluate someone's potential "mate-ability."
The second experiment explored kissing in relation to mate assessment as well. They investigated whether or not the value of kissing changes depending on whether or not a woman is ovulating. Turns out, it does! Women that are in the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle feel kissing is more important than they do when they are in the infertile phase of their cycle. These results similarly indicate that a kiss, for women at least, is a test of finding and mating with a favorable male.
Sure, kissing is a fun and meaningful emotional human behavior. But underneath it all, we are actually assessing our potential mate. Needless to say, this brings a whole new level to the significance of a New Year's kiss!