World's Longest Kiss Contest: Thailand
Less than half of worldwide cultures use kissing to express romance, according to a report published in American Anthropologist Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

Although passionate kissing seems to many of us like a normal way to show your love to – or lust for – a partner, new research has found that this is not the norm in most cultures in the world, but is most prevalent in the Middle East.

A study entitled Is the Romantic-Sexual Kiss A Near Human Universal? looked at 168 different cultures from around the globe to see if romantic kissing is widespread throughout human civilisations.

Maybe it's typical Western arrogance to think that if we do it, then everybody else must do it too. But the study, led by Justin R Garcia of The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University in the US, found that passionate kissing is not the norm in most cultures – and that some even find the act repulsive.

The study, published in the journal American Anthropologist, found that fewer than half (46%) of the cultures surveyed engaged in romantic kissing – which was defined as lip-to-lip contact.

Garcia said: "We hypothesised that some cultures would either not engage in romantic/sexual kissing, or find it to be a strange display of intimacy, but we were surprised to find that it was a majority of cultures that fell into this category. This is a real reminder of how Western ethnocentrism can bias the way we think about human behaviour."

Surprisingly, in Central America, the researchers found no evidence of romantic kissing, but all 10 cultures surveyed in the Middle East did. A little more than half of the cultures in North America displayed affection in this way, the research found, compared with 70% in Europe and 73% in Asia. However, no researchers found any evidence of romantic kissing in Sub-Saharan Africa, New Guinea or Amazonian foragers.

Other studies have claimed that 90% of societies engage in romantic kissing. However, according to Garcia, "we realised no one had used standard cross-cultural methods to assess how frequently kissing actually occurs in different societies, but by doing so, we could begin to understand why it might occur in some places and not others".