What's in a kiss? The effect of romantic kissing on mating desirability.
Wlodarski R., Dunbar RI.
Past research suggests that various courtship rituals, such as romantic kissing, may convey useful mate quality information. Two studies were carried out to examine how purported romantic kissing abilities, as a potential cue to some form of mate information, affect appraisals of potential mating partners. In Experiment 1, 724 participants were presented with vignette descriptions of potential mating partners and were asked to rate partner desirability for various mating-related situations. The primary result of this experiment was that purported kissing ability increased mate desirability in "casual sex" mating situations for women to a greater extent than for men. Experiment 2 repeated the same procedure with another 178 participants, this time including visual information alongside vignette descriptions containing kissing-related information to examine the relative effects of these two modalities. It was found that the presence of a picture alongside a descriptive vignette negated the effect of kissing-related information only when rating potential partners on attractiveness or desirability for further courtship, though not when evaluating partners for casual sex or long-term relationship scenarios. Visual information containing "attractive" photos of potential partners was also found to have a greater effect on men's ratings of partner desirability than on women's ratings of partner desirability. The results are discussed in light of romantic kissing's potential function of conveying important mate quality and desirability information, and its relative role in the presence of additional visual mate cues.