Cultural Anthropology

What muscles do you use when you kiss?
Answered by HowStuffWorks
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  1. You wouldn't think that something so personal and romantic would have science behind it, but hey, scientists just want to have fun, too. The science of kissing is called philematology. The study of kissing covers many aspects of kissing, such as why we kiss and how we react to romantic kisses.

    What about the mechanics of kissing? When it's time to kiss, we seldom think about how our bodies help it happen. Our faces are loaded with muscles, many of which only attach to skin. Much is made of the number of muscles needed to frown or smile and in 2008, psychologists reported that everyone has five universal facial muscles to use for making expressions, but 10 voluntary ones that only show up in some of us [source: Kruglinski]. A surprisingly wide range of facial muscles help you kiss:

    • Orbicularis oris: This multi-layered muscle encircles your lips. You use it to pucker your lips.
    • Zygomaticus major, zygomaticus minor and levator labii superioris: These muscles on each side of your face work together to pull the corners of your mouth and your lower lip upward.
    • Depressor labii inferioris and depressor anguli oris: These muscles in your jaw pull your lower lip and the corners of your mouth downward.
    • Lateral pterygoid: This small muscle on the side of your face pulls your jawbone down if you open your mouth.
    • Masseter, temporalis and medial pterygoid: These muscles close your mouth.
    • Genioglossus, styloglossus, palatoglossus and hyoglossus: These muscles work together to move your tongue.

    Author Sheril Kirshenbaum writes about these passionate -- and muscular -- kisses in "The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us." She also points out that humans are not the only mammals who exhibit kissing behaviors. According to Kirshenbaum, many mammals kiss, lick, nibble or perform kiss-like actions to learn about other members of their species or to display affection [source: Bancroft]. She adds, however, that humans are especially designed for romantic kissing. It's not just all of the fancy facial muscles that make humans great kissers. Kirshenbaum says we walk around with everted -- or inside out -- lips made up of rosy soft tissues just begging to be smooched.

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