Your love is my drug

The science behind how you and your Valentine’s Day date should be K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

by Courtney Johnson

This Valentine’s Day, many of you will find yourselves sitting over a romantic candlelit dinner for two, laughing politely at jokes and exchanging heart-shaped boxes of overpriced chocolates and long-stemmed roses. But what if at the end of the night, instead of a captivatingly romantic kiss that has you swept off your feet, you find yourself on the receiving end of a sloppy, poorly formed kiss? Regrettably, you might find yourself running in the opposite direction.

A kiss has the power to convey important information in a relationship and impact the future of it. According to Sheril Kirshenbaum, author of the book “The Science of Kissing,” 58 percent of women and 59 percent of men report ending a budding relationship because of a bad kiss.  So naturally, it would seem that leaving a good impression right off the bat for a romantic interest would be important.

We kiss in many different ways: passionately, shyly, gently and exuberantly. In a good kiss, our pupils dilate, our pulse quickens and our breathing becomes irregular. But while smooching on our sweethearts this Valentine’s Day, what is not necessarily at the forefront of our thoughts are the type of chemical reactions inside of our brains. These reactions make up that addictive quality  that makes us want to prolong our saliva-swapping and teeth-knocking obsession.

As the metaphorical fireworks go off during a thrilling and delightful kiss, there is a rise in the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. These feelings of craving and desire that many often feel when smooching their special someone are a result of this increase in dopamine and oxytocin in the brain. The release of these chemicals and their reactions are found in the same section of the brain that cocaine activates and are elevated during these moments of stimulation.

Of course, many other things should be taken into consideration when pursuing a relationship, such as basic compatibility and attraction; but as it turns out, kissing is nature’s ultimate test. Remember that sloppy, wet kiss that had you second-guessing your choice of companions? While no two people kiss alike, the different senses that are drawn on while kissing are vital to subconsciously deciding whether to go on with the relationship. Attraction is more than skin deep; it is something determined by all the senses. During a kiss, women are more sensitive to things such as taste and smell and engage more of their senses because they are biologically fertile for a shorter period of time than men. 

But it’s all got to start somewhere. In a study performed by Arthur Aron of the State University of New York, he discovered that eye contact was a major trigger for these starter feelings of attraction. Aron paired male and female strangers together for an hour and a half and instructed them to discuss intimate details about their lives with one another. Afterward, he had them look into each other’s eyes for four minutes. 

As awkward as it might initially seem, the participants of the study reported that they had feelings of deep attraction and desire for their paired partner — some of them even wound up tying the knot only months after the study was conducted. Now that’s magical.

Kisses comes in many varieties — passionate, lustful, angry and sometimes powerful — but it all begins with simple attractions brought about by all of our senses and grows from there. Maybe now you’ll gaze into your date’s eyes over dinner, in the hopes that they will find your goodnight kiss as desirable and intriguing as the one in “Casablanca,” “The Notebook” or “Juno,” depending on your style. I’d say this is a much better alternative to laying a sloppy, wet one on your date at the end of the night.