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Research scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum spoke Thursday at Louisville, Kentucky's four-day IdeaFestival, a gathering assembled to promote innovation and creative thinking. Discussing her book, The Science of Kissing, Kirshenbaum said, "There really is a chemical basis for falling in love. I don't think trying to understand it takes any of the romance out of the equation," and "A first kiss is nature's ultimate litmus test."
In her book, Kirshenbaum writes about the way men and women make different value judgments about the art of kissing. Women may see it as a compatibility gauge, while it may be viewed as more of a "means to an end" by men. And since men's saliva is packed with testosterone, which raises a woman's libido (see Jane Fonda), literally swapping spit is a good way to prime the pump, so to speak. For men, it's "a way to legally slip her a natural sex stimulant."
Kissing, as we know, is also healing, activating that sweet sweet dopamine. And oxytocin, which engenders feelings of attachment, is like a hit of natural ecstasy. Randy humans will smell each other at close range to detect a group of genes known as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), which basically controls the efficacy of our immune systems. Greater diversity of MHC indicates healthier immune systems in future offspring. So women will sniff out a man who can provide her future babies with genetic benefits. Olivia Manning (Peyton and Eli's mom) must have some smeller.