The US study revealed that women used kissing as a means to assess a relationship and its future, while men appeared to kiss in a bid to increase the likelihood of having sex.
Women placed more importance on kissing and were more likely to evaluate their partner's kissing ability on factors such as the smell of their breath and the appearance of their teeth.
The study of more than 1,000 students at the New York State University also found fewer women than men were willing to have sex without kissing their partners first.
Women also felt that a bad kisser was less attractive.
The study, published in Evolutionary Psychology, found men were less discriminating when it came to deciding who to kiss or who to have sex with.
Dr Gordon Gallup, who led the research, said kissing had evolved as an adaptive courtship strategy "that functions as a mate-assessment technique, a means of initiating sexual arousal and receptivity, and a way of maintaining a bonded relationship".
Men can compromise on kissing
"We suspect that overall, women place a greater importance on kissing not only to make more judicious mate assessments, but for those in committed relationships kissing is used (wittingly or not) to update, monitor, and assess the status of their partner's continuing commitment (or lack thereof) to the relationship," he said.
"Males tend to employ romantic kissing as a means of increasing sexual receptivity and gaining sexual access, to affect conflict resolution and to possibly monitor the fertility of his mate."
Men were more willing to have sex with someone without kissing, to have sex with someone they are not attracted to and agree to have sex with someone they considered to be a bad kisser.
Men also place less importance on kissing as the relationship progresses, while women thought kissing was important throughout a relationship.
More men than women used kissing in an attempt to end a fight and there was also a difference in the sort of kisses that men and women preferred, with men liking wet, tongue kisses.
The New York State University team anonymously questioned 1,041 college students, all aged 18 or over, for the study.