Why Humans Are Hardwired To Turn To The Right When We Kiss

What's in a kiss? More than you might think.

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When I was 5 years old, I tried to kiss the cute boy who sat next to me in kindergarten.

He did not appreciate my amorous advances, and I had to sit out of recess as punishment for invading someone’s personal space.

It didn’t matter though. From that moment forward, I was smitten with the idea of kissing. As a preteen, I secretly read my grandmother’s tattered copy of The Thornbirds, tried to sneakily catch my older cousins swapping spit with their boyfriends, and watched breathlessly as Jack and Rose kissed on the bow of the Titanic.

I studied the kissing scenes in movies especially hard in anticipation of my own future lip locks. From Jack and Rose to Allie and Noah, I noticed that all on-screen kisses had one thing in common: Both people always turned their heads to the right when leaning in for the kiss.

What can I say? As a lefty, I tend to notice these things.

I recently learned that most people are actually hardwired to turn to the right when kissing. German psychologist Onur Güntürkü studied the kissing practices of 124 couples (unbeknownst to the subjects) and found that the majority of the couples turned their heads to the right when they locked lips.

The same results were found to be true in Bangladesh when scientists observed married couples kissing in their homes. Of the couples observed, 75 percent turned their heads to the right when kissing.

So why do we instinctively turn our heads to the right when we kiss?

It is estimated that between 70 and 90 percent of the world’s population are right-handed. This preference develops in the womb, as early as the tenth week of pregnancy. It’s possible that this early preference for one hand over the other extends into other right-sided preferences, like turning your head to kiss.

Canadian researchers have another interesting theory: We tend to turn our heads right when kissing romantic partners and to the left when kissing platonic family members and friends.

The jury is still out on why we instinctively turn to the right when kissing. As it turns out though, this right-sided head preference isn’t even the weirdest thing about sharing smooches.

Not tonight, honey. I’m allergic to kissing.

Yes, it’s true. You can have an allergic reaction while kissing your sweetheart. If you’re allergic to a certain food, kissing someone who has eaten that food can trigger an allergic reaction. Even if the person didn’t eat that food recently and has brushed their teeth and rinsed their mouth well, you could still have an allergic reaction up to 24 hours later.

It’s bad enough for a food allergy to be triggered by kissing, but what if you were actually allergic to your partner’s kisses?

That’s what happened to Johanna Watkins, a Minnesota woman who is allergic to her husband Scott’s scent, thanks to mast cell activation syndrome, a rare immune disorder.

In an interview with TODAY, Scott shared, “We haven’t kissed in about a year and a half, maybe two years.”

But that doesn’t stop the Watkins from having date nights like other normal couples. They just have to adapt a little.

“We talk on the phone all the time. We watch shows together—she watches the show on her TV and I watch the show on mine.”

First rule of kissing? Good oral hygiene.

This just makes good sense. No one wants to kiss someone whose mouth is less than minty fresh. Even if you brush your teeth before kissing, you can still get cavities from bacteria that stick to teeth.

In an article for SELF magazine, dentist Emanuel Layliev explains, “Cavities are typically passed through mouth-to-mouth contact when there is an exchange of saliva.”

If you and your significant other have a hot-and-heavy make out session, it’s pretty hard not to swap spit. It’s estimated that more than 80 million bacteria are exchanged between partners in a 10-second kissing session.

Someone who has lots of cavity-causing bacteria in their mouth can transfer that bacteria to their partner, increasing the likelihood that they too will develop a cavity. But the opposite is also true. Swapping spit with someone who has lots of good bacteria can boost your immune system.

There’s no need to be scared of kissing.

On average, both women and men will kiss an average of 15 to 16 people before finding the one person they want to kiss forever. In total, the average person spends up to two full weeks of their entire lives kissing.

For people like Erica Valentine, who suffer from philemaphobia, though, kissing is less like a two-week dream vacation and more like a total nightmare.

Philemaphobia is, you guessed it, the fear of kissing. It’s common among young or inexperienced kissers and usually goes away with a little practice. For a small percentage of people who suffer from philemaphobia, though, the fear never goes away.

This fear of kissing is often coupled with other phobias. For example, some people might be afraid of kissing because they’re also afraid of germs, intimacy, or physical contact.

Valentine hasn’t been kissed in over two years, because she’s terrified of the bacteria and germs swapped during kissing. She used to wear braces to discourage her partners from kissing her. 

Since her braces have come off, Valentine says, ‘I still wear a retainer but if people get close to me I just use that as a way of putting people off kissing me.”

Skip the spa and schedule a make-out session instead.

I’m always looking for a good excuse to skip the gym, and now I have one. Kissing is not only more fun than clocking time on the treadmill, it’s good for you too.

Kissing stimulates the production of oxytocin, the hormone that promotes calmness. That same hormone is released when we participate in calming activities like massage and yoga.

Kissing also reduces cortisol, a hormone that can cause stress, suggesting that kissing is a great way to relieve tension at the end of a long day.

In addition, lower cortisol levels can also help lower blood pressure. In an interview with Glamour magazine, Dr. Ryan Neinstein explains, “The more you kiss, the more your heart races, and the more your blood flows, ultimately reducing high blood pressure.”

That’s not all kissing can do. Locking lips can burn up to two calories per minute, about the same amount of calories as taking a brisk walk. In addition, you can use up to 30 facial muscles during a really passionate kiss. These muscles can help tone the cheeks and keep wrinkles at bay.

With health benefits like these, you’ll never need a spa day again. Just pretend like it’s high school all over again, grab your sweetheart, and start smooching.

Katie Martin
Katie Raye Martin is a freelance writer, navy wife, new mom, and chocoholic. In addition to HealthyWay, she has contributed to NextGenMilSpouse, a blog for the millennial military spouse, and Pregnant Chicken, a pregnancy blog. Since welcoming her first son a few months ago, Katie has become a pregnancy expert and cloth diapering connoisseur. When she’s not writing (or changing diapers) Katie is training for her first half-marathon.

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