Philematology: The Science of Kissing



A kiss can say a lot. There is even an entire field dedicated to the science of kissing, also known as philematology. where a kiss is not called just a kiss, it is called osculation. Sheril Kirshenbaum, a researcher at the University of Texas has just launched the new book "The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us." Drawing from fields such as history, sociology, neurology and animal behaviorists, Kirshenbaum attempt to pose the various theories on why we kiss, which can be instinctual, cultural or possibly even genetic. Some scientists believe the female mouth to be a point of seduction, reminiscent of direct genital displays when humans walked on all fours before standing upright. Lips are erogenous zones full of nerve endings, "extremely sensitive to pressure, temperature and other means of stimulation." Kissing might even be connected with the power of scent, being able to determine who is familiar or as a way to determine health. While kisses were often used as a greeting, it was soon replaced with the handshake in the 1660s during the Great Plague in London.

The kiss has been featured extensively in art and literature. "Kissing was first documented in human societies around 1500 B.C., in India's Vedic Sanskrit texts that serve as the basis of the Hindu religion. One describes the practice of smelling with the mouth. Another recounts how a 'young lord of the house repeatedly licks the young woman,' which could symbolize a kiss or related caress, according to Kirshenbaum. Phrases such as "setting mouth to mouth," and the law against a man "drinking the moisture of the lips" of a slave woman all speak to the centrality and significance of the act. The Kama Sutra features an entire chapter on the art of kissing.

While not just about seduction and pleasure, a kiss has also been used as a way to denote status. Herodotus described how "Persian kisses ranged from lip on lip for equals to the ground or feet by an exorbitantly lower status person to a higher one." In ancient Babylon, during the reign of the Roman emperor Caligula and even in the contemporary era, kissing the feet of someone believed to be hierarchically above you is a sign of respect.

Kissing is a huge part of intimacy, sexuality and chemistry. So much so, the German language alone has 30 words for kissing. More than half of men and women — 59 percent of men and 66 percent of women — have ended a relationship because of a bad kiss, according to one study cited by Kirshenbaum. Kissing counts!

To read more: and read more at the Science of Kissing Blog:

Thanks New York Magazine for sharing the video above.