Evolution of kissing, shaking hands, laughing

Well, I’ve done my share of the three and all of the sudden I wondered to myself, "When/why the hall did people start doing them (kissing, shaking hands, and laughing that is). Where on the evolutional train track did people decided that they would like to massage their special friends tongue with their own, have a quick salutory dance with a comrade, and thrust bursts of air out of their lungs in enjoyment. If anyone knows of any scientific/theoretical material relating to this, please tell me.

I read a novel set in Japan during the Tokugawa Shogunate and it claimed that kissing was unknown until introduced by Westerners. I was a bit surprised, and the book seemed to get most of it’s other details correct (I got interested in that era of Japanese history after playing Nobunaga’s Ambition for the NES).

Well, as I remember, Chimpanzees and other apes kiss, and I’ve heard it claimed that Chimps also laugh when amused (Maybe the primatologists are able to tell what Chimps think is funny. Don’t ask me to tell.).

There’s an anthropologist named Desmond Morris who’s done research in this area, gitfiddle. You may want to look him up. 'Could be of some use to you.

  1. Kissing. I can’t support this with a link, but I saw a program on Discovery that said that kissing was derived from baby feeding. Apparently, granny used to (and still does in some parts of the world) chew up the food and transfer it directly to the child.

Therefore, we have a subconscious association between touching lip-to-lip and pleasure/contentment/love.

It didn’t say anything about tongues, though :slight_smile: .

  1. Hand shaking. I’d go with strength testing/look I’m unarmed/look, I trust you enough to get really close/I’m bonding myself (briefly) to you/etc…

  2. Laughing. No idea. Maybe it comes from an explosive release of tension when fear passes?

Chimps do not laugh in the way we do. In fact, if you see a film of a primate which appears to be laughing, it is probably scared sh##less. Showing teeth is usually an aggressive/defensive thing, not at all amusing for them. If you want to make friends with a non-human primate, keep your mouth closed and don’t show your teeth, even in a smile.

Most mammals nuzzle their young with their mouths, and primates often do this while grooming friends and relations. It is easy to see how this might develop into kissing of our kind. Indeed, the best sexual foreplay starts with a lot of kissing all over the body, not mouth kissing.

I generally agree with Bromley about hand shaking. However, outside USA handshakes are rarely competitive or strength testing. That is a localised thing in parts of the US. Elsewhere, such a handshake is seen as ill-mannered, unfriendly and even aggressive.

I reckon the first kiss was given by a lusty young male it being a very convenient way of stifling any possible objection to what he intended to do next.

Not sure I believe this but here’s what I’ve heard; way back when kissing was used as a sort of health inspection for prospective mates. Positioning your mouths and noses as close as they are when kissing you can sniff out diseases and such. Of course if you get that close to them might as well go ahead and mate cause nobody else is gonna want to since you probably just contracted whatever illness they may have had :wink:

And (please see my post above) perhaps the first laugh was when she saw what he was threatening her with.

And then the first shaking of hands occurred when they agreed not to bother.

I caught a discovery channel program once about human behaviors that chimps exhibit, or more correctly, chimp behaviors humans exhibit. Chimps have very complex social lives, mothers have very strong connections with their children who they often kiss and hug. I don’t recall if laughing was covered, but I believe I’ve seen a chimp laugh before, but it might have been an actor monkey prompted to do so.

The kiss originated when the first male reptile licked the first female reptile, implying in a subtle yet complimentary way that she was as succulent as the small reptile he had for dinner the night before. - F.S. Fitzgerald

I think it is in “The Human Zoo” by Desmond Morris, or if not “The Naked Ape” by same, where there is a discussion of the evolution of the kiss refering to the baby food explanation. If I remember correctly, he states that this behavior still exists today in areas where there is not a market on every corner. Funny how we forget the origin of things when they are mass produced and marketed as a convenience. Instead of “Gerber”, they should’ve called it “Mama’s Kiss”.

I have heard this before too, but I don’t know if it’s really true or not. I do know that the Japanese today do not kiss as casually as Westerners, but there could be a variety of reasons for that.

I just listened to a program on NPR not too long ago that did a show about laughing.

Here it is To the Best of Our Knowledge, April 7, 2002.

At one point (in segment 1, maybe) it was concluded that the sound of laughter is derived from the labored breathing of play.

As for kissing, I’ve also heard the feeding-baby theory.

And shaking hands, I believe, is a way of showing the other person that you are unarmed.

(I’ve got no cite for the last two, though, it’s just Things I’ve Heard)

There was another thread about laughter last week. However, given that it had a total of 2 posts (the original and one by yours truely), I’ll restate parts of what I said previously:

Cecil gave a brief, non-evolutionary, description of laughter here. It’s not particularly helpful, though; it’s more of an extended wisecrack than anything else.

Robert Provine provides this explanation:

From http://msnbc.com/news/273621.asp?cp1=1#BODY . Emphasis added.

Robert Provine expanded on his hypotheses in the American Scientist (1996) . How Things Work addresses the issuehere and briefly cites a range of opinions on the issue.