K is for… Kissing

The Psychologist A to Z continues.

Suggested by Susanna Martin, Experimental Officer at the University of Bath

‘Kissing is something that we can all experience, but each kiss is unique with different, motivations, feelings and scenarios changing our experience. Kissing can be used as an excellent example for how varied psychology can be: we could research how people kiss, the age that they have their first kiss and the social acceptability, what is happening in the brain when we kiss or whether we could replicate a kiss in the virtual world.’

Awareness of touch deteriorates when we are distracted visually, and according to Alberto Gallace in his December 2012 article the opposite may also be true: hence the line as Carrie and Charles kiss in Four Weddings and a Funeral: ‘Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.’

The author J.M. Barrie, in Peter Pan, had Wendy describe a ‘kiss’ as a ‘thimble’. In a January 2017 conversation with Chris Frith, author Rosalind Ridley explained how Barrie was very aware of the scientific developments of his day, and in many places seems to have anticipated ideas in psychology that only emerged after his death.

The longed-for kiss has been used in psychological warfare, with Japanese propaganda leaflets used against the Americans in the Philippine Islands depicting a beautiful woman’s lips and the word ‘Remember?’ See Herbert Friedman’s January 2009 ‘Looking back: Sex in psychological warfare’.

Of course, KISS is also a well-known acronym for ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’. In his June 2012 ‘Opinion’ piece ‘The brave psychologist’, Paul Furey argued for simpler interventions to boost business success.

- Image by Karla Novak.

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Entries so far are collated at https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/psychology-z

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