Romantic Kissing Is Not The 'Norm' In All Cultures, Study Shows

First Posted: Aug 05, 2015 11:56 PM EDT

In some cultures, kissing is a way of showing romantic affection. However, that's not quite the case in others, according to recent findings published in the journal American Anthropologist. In fact, researchers at Indiana University found that it's not the norm in many places.

In this most recent study, researchers examined 168 cultures throughout the world to get a better understanding of what was acceptable when it came to kissing.

Findings revealed that about 46 percent of all cultures surveyed engaged in romantic/sexual kissing, which was defined as lip-to-lip contact that may or may not be prolonged. In North American, roughly 55 percent of cultures engaged in romantic kissing, while 70 percent in Europe and 73 percent in Asia also participated in romantic kissing. However, kissing was most prevalent in the Middle East, where all 10 of the cultures studied engaged in it.

"We hypothesized that some cultures would either not engage in romantic/sexual kissing, or find it to be a strange display of intimacy, but we were surprised to find that it was a majority of cultures that fell into this category," Justin Garcia, co-author of the study, said in a statement. "This is a real reminder of how Western ethnocentrism can bias the way we think about human behavior."

No evidence of romantic kissing was found in Central America and no ethnographer working with Sub-Saharan African, New Guinean or Amazonian foragers or horticulturalists reported any evidence of romantic kissing in the populations they studied.

Researchers also found a connection between social complexity and kissing. For instance, the more socially complex and stratified a society was, the higher the frequency of romantic kissing. However, researchers are still not entirely certain where romantic kissing evolved from.

"There is likely a biological underpinning to kissing, as it can often involve exchange of pheromones and saliva, and also pathogens -- which might be particularly dangerous in societies without oral hygiene, where kissing may lead to spread of respiratory or other illness," he said. "But this is only in societies that have come to see the erotic kiss as part of their larger romantic and sexual repertoires. How that shift occurs is still an open question for research."

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