Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Behavioral Neuroscience

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 116 pages) : color illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Gordon G Gallup

Committee Members

Christine K Wagner, Robert A Rosellini


Evolutionary psychology, Kissing, Mate choice, Relationship satisfaction, Love, Intimacy (Psychology)

Subject Categories

Evolution | Psychology


A strong understanding of the role of kissing has important theoretical implications; however little research has been done on kissing in romantic relationships. This study aimed to examine the role of kissing in (a) mate assessment, (b) initiating arousal and (c) maintenance of an emotional bond. Data were collected by surveying college students at a public university in the northeast. The first survey (n = 121) examined the memory of the first kiss compared to other sexual “firsts” as well as the relationship between the first kiss and relationship outcome. Memories of the first kiss were weaker than memories of first sex and quality of the first kiss was not associated with relationship outcome. The second survey (n= 67) asked participants to rate their first kiss with their current partner as well as their satisfaction with various aspects of their current relationship. Quality of the first kiss was positively correlated with current relationship satisfaction, particularly sexual satisfaction in men and emotional satisfaction in women. This relationship was much weaker in women on hormonal birth control. Satisfaction with kissing in the current relationship was also positively correlated with relationship satisfaction in women, but not men. In the third study (n = 55), respondents were asked to report which type of kiss was mostly likely in a variety of contexts. They were also asked to predict how likely a “great kisser” was to have a variety of other attributes. The results suggest that closed mouth kissing is primarily related to emotional intimacy and conflict resolution and open mouth kissing with tongue contact is most associated with sexual arousal and attraction. Overall, the results provide strong evidence that kissing is important in romantic relationships. Additional research should be done to further elucidate the exact role that kissing plays in mate assessment, relationship maintenance and sexual attraction and how it varies by gender.