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The Differences in Gender -- Sealed With a Kiss

Hughes and her colleagues set out to probe some of the mysteries of lip-smacking by conducting a series of three in-depth interviews with 1,041 students at the University at Albany.

"This was a fishing expedition," Hughes admitted. "We didn't know what to expect."

But Hughes and her colleagues had three hypotheses:

"People may use kissing as a sort of mate assessment," she said. "You can tell a lot of information about a person by being in close proximity -- from their breath, the taste of their saliva, things like that."

Their second hypothesis was that kissing promotes bonding.

"If you are accepting a kiss you are putting yourself at risk of contracting an illness. And we suspect it raises levels of a hormone called oxytocin, which is related to interpersonal bonding," Hughes said.

The third hypothesis was that kissing is simply a way of inducing sexual arousal, increasing the chance of having sex.

"Men might use this more to seduce their partners more than women do," she said.

The researchers found support for all three theories, Hughes and her colleagues reported in the October issue of the journal Evolutionary Psychology, as well as provocative differences between men and women.

Women place more emphasis on the taste and smell of the person they kiss than men do, the researchers found.

"That clues us in that females may be using it more to make mate assessments than men," she said.

Women were also more likely to refuse to have sex with a partner unless they kissed first. More than half of the men said they would have sex without kissing first, but fewer than 15 percent of the women said the same.

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