August 18, 2006

On Kissing

Posted in Personal, Random Oddments, Relationships at 12:14 am by Calico Jack

Thanks to Digg for this article

So how does one gesture come to signify affection, celebration, grief, comfort and respect, all over the world? No one knows for sure, but anthropologists think kissing might have originated with human mothers feeding their babies much the way birds do. Mothers would chew the food and then pass it from their mouths to their babies’ mouths. After the babies learned to eat solid food, their mothers may have kissed them to comfort them or to show affection.

In this scenario, kissing is a learned behavior, passed from generation to generation. We do it because we learned how to from our parents and from the society around us. There’s a problem with this theory, though: women in a few modern indigenous cultures feed their babies by passing chewed food mouth-to-mouth. But in some of these cultures, no one kissed until Westerners introduced the practice.

Other researchers believe instead that kissing is instinctive. They use bonobo apes, which are closely related to humans, to support this idea. Bonobos kiss one another frequently. Regardless of sex or status within their social groups, bonobos kiss to reduce tension after disputes, to reassure one another, to develop social bonds and sometimes for no clear reason at all. Some researchers believe that kissing primates prove that the desire to kiss is instinctive…

Scientists don’t entirely agree on whether kissing is learned or instinctive. There’s support for both arguments, just as there’s support for the different theories of why people started doing it in the first place.

There is quite a lot of disagreement over this issue, isn’t there? I, for one, suggest that we do some more research to solve this problem. Are there any volunteers?

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