If you lean in for a kiss to the left, you might be a freak—or at least someone doomed to awkwardly bump into your significant other, new research suggests. The study, published in Scientific Reports, confirmed that humans are innately inclined to veer right when they lock lips. By looking at a small sample of kissers in Bangladesh, the authors add, they were able to rule out the possibility that leaning to the right for a kiss is a solely Western behavior.
“Many non-western countries are more conservative socially,” coauthor on the study Michael Proulx, psychology professor at the University of Bath, told Fatherly. “So the finding that couples in Bangladesh turn their heads to the right when kissing as in western countries means there is something more universal about this behavior.”
Proulx and his team asked 48 married Bangladeshi couples to kiss privately in their own homes and then retreat to separate rooms to complete a survey about aspects of the kissing independently. They found that men were nearly 15 times more likely to initiate kissing, and that more than two-thirds turned their heads to the right. Although handedness played a role for kiss initiators—righties were more likely to lean right—kiss recipients almost always turned their heads to the right to match the initiator’s position, regardless of handedness. This implies that turning right for the kiss is likely a mixture of nature and nurture. “There is definitely a learned aspect,” Proulx says.
Learned behaviors aside, Proulx suspects our kissing position preferences may be deep-seated in our brains. “Most babies have an instinctual turn of the head to the right, and it appears this lasts until adulthood and is seen in kissing as well,” he explains. And though the sample size was modest and based on self reporting, plenty of past research echoes the key finding that, more than anything else, leaning to the right for a kiss seems to have a neurologic basis.
Left-leaners need not worry, though. Proulx says the findings suggest that those of us who can’t align our faces for a good kiss are still relatively normal—if not more likely to be left-handed.