Advertisement

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 1685–1695 | Cite as

The Role of Breast Size and Areolar Pigmentation in Perceptions of Women’s Sexual Attractiveness, Reproductive Health, Sexual Maturity, Maternal Nurturing Abilities, and Age

  • Barnaby J. DixsonEmail author
  • Melanie Duncan
  • Alan F. Dixson
Original Paper

Abstract

Women’s breast morphology is thought to have evolved via sexual selection as a signal of maturity, health, and fecundity. While research demonstrates that breast morphology is important in men’s judgments of women’s attractiveness, it remains to be determined how perceptions might differ when considering a larger suite of mate relevant attributes. Here, we tested how variation in breast size and areolar pigmentation affected perceptions of women’s sexual attractiveness, reproductive health, sexual maturity, maternal nurturing abilities, and age. Participants (100 men; 100 women) rated images of female torsos modeled to vary in breast size (very small, small, medium, and large) and areolar pigmentation (light, medium, and dark) for each of the five attributes listed above. Sexual attractiveness ratings increased linearly with breast size, but large breasts were not judged to be significantly more attractive than medium-sized breasts. Small and medium-sized breasts were rated as most attractive if they included light or medium colored areolae, whereas large breasts were more attractive if they had medium or dark areolae. Ratings for perceived age, sexual maturity, and nurturing ability also increased with breast size. Darkening the areolae reduced ratings of the reproductive health of medium and small breasts, whereas it increased ratings for large breasts. There were no significant sex differences in ratings of any of the perceptual measures. These results demonstrate that breast size and areolar pigmentation interact to determine ratings for a suite of sociosexual attributes, each of which may be relevant to mate choice in men and intra-sexual competition in women.

Keywords

Breast size Areolar pigmentation Attractiveness Sexual selection 

References

  1. Anderson, A. (1983). The reproductive role of the human breast. Current Anthropology, 24, 25–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, J. L. (1988). Breasts, hips and buttocks revisited. Ethology and Sociobiology, 9, 319–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, J. L., Crawford, C. B., Nadeau, J., & Lindberg, T. (1992). Was the Duchess of Windsor right? Across-cultural review of the socioecology of ideals of female body shape. Ethology and Sociobiology, 13, 197–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barber, N. (1995). The evolutionary psychology of physical attractiveness: Sexual selection and human morphology. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16, 395–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Biro, F. M., Falkner, F., Khoury, P., Morrison, J., & Lucky, A. (1992). Areolar and breast staging in adolescent girls. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 5, 271–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Broer, P. N., Juran, S., Walker, M. E., Ng, R., Weichman, K., Tanna, N., et al. (2014). Aesthetic breast shape preferences among plastic surgeons. Annals of Plastic Surgery. doi: 10.1097/SAP.0000000000000001.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, T. P., Ringrose, C., Hyland, R. E., Cole, A. A., & Brotherston, T. M. (1999). A method for assessing female breast morphometry and its clinical application. British Journal of Plastic Surgery, 52, 353–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burris, C. T., & Munteanu, A. R. (2012). Preferred female body proportions among child-free men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 1431–1437.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204–232.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Cant, J. G. H. (1981). Hypothesis for the evolution of human breasts and buttocks. American Naturalist, 117, 199–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Caro, T. M. (1987). Human breasts: Unsupported hypotheses reviewed. Human Evolution, 2, 271–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Caro, T. M., & Sellen, D. W. (1990). The reproductive advantages of fat in women. Ethology and Sociobiology, 11, 51–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cashdan, E. (2008). Waist-to-hip ratio across cultures: Trade-offs between androgen and estrogen-dependent traits. Current Anthropology, 49, 1099–1107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cornelissen, P. L., Hancock, P. J., Kiviniemi, V., George, H. R., & Tovée, M. J. (2009). Patterns of eye movements when male and female observers judge female attractiveness, body fat and waist-to-hip ratio. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30, 417–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dean, N., Haynes, J., Brennan, J., Neild, T., Goddard, C., Dearman, B., et al. (2005). Nipple areolar pigmentation: Histology and potential for reconstitution in breast reconstruction. British Journal of Plastic Surgery, 58, 202–208.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Dixson, B. J., Grimshaw, G. M., Linklater, W. L., & Dixson, A. F. (2010). Watching the hourglass. Human Nature, 21, 355–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dixson, B. J., Grimshaw, G. M., Linklater, W. L., & Dixson, A. F. (2011a). Eye-tracking of men’s preferences for waist-to-hip ratio and breast size of women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 43–50.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Dixson, B. J., Grimshaw, G. M., Linklater, W. L., & Dixson, A. F. (2011b). Eye-tracking of men’s preferences for female breast size and areolar pigmentation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 51–58.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Dixson, B. J., Grimshaw, G. M., Ormsby, D. K., & Dixson, A. F. (2014). Eye-tracking women’s preferences for men’s somatotypes. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35, 73–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dixson, B. J., Vasey, P. L., Sagata, K., Sibanda, N., Linklater, W. L., & Dixson, A. F. (2011c). Men’s preferences for women’s breast morphology in New Zealand, Samoa, and Papua New Guinea. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1271–1279.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Doucet, S., Soussignan, R., Sagot, P., & Schaal, B. (2009). The secretion of areolar (Montgomery’s) glands from lactating women elicits selective, unconditional responses in neonates. PLoS ONE, 4(10), e7579.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Doyle, J. F., & Pazhoohi, F. (2012). Natural and augmented breasts: Is what is not natural most attractive? Human Ethology Bulletin, 27, 4–14.Google Scholar
  24. Dufour, D. L., & Slather, M. L. (2002). Comparative and evolutionary dimensions of the energetics of human pregnancy and lactation. American Journal of Human Biology, 14, 584–602.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Fink, B., Klappauf, D., Brewer, G., & Shackelford, T. K. (2014). Female physical characteristics and intra-sexual competition in women. Personality and Individual Differences, 58, 138–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ford, C. S., & Beach, F. A. (1951). Patterns of sexual behavior. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  27. Freund, K., Langevin, R., & Zajac, Y. (1974). Heterosexual aversion in homosexual males: A second experiment. British Journal of Psychiatry, 125, 177–180.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Furnham, A., Dias, M., & McClelland, A. (1998). The role of body weight, waist-to hip ratio, and breast size in judgments of female attractiveness. Sex Roles, 34, 311–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Furnham, A., & Swami, V. (2007). Perception of female buttocks and breast size in profile. Social Behavior and Personality, 35, 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Furnham, A., Swami, V., & Shah, K. (2006). Body weight, waist-to-hip ratio and breast size correlates of ratings of attractiveness and health. Personality and Individual Differences, 41, 443–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gallup, G. G. (1982). Permanent breast enlargement in human females: A sociobiological analysis. Journal of Human Evolution, 11, 597–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gangestad, S. W., Haselton, M. G., & Buss, D. M. (2006). Evolutionary foundations of cultural variation: Evoked culture and mate preferences. Psychological Inquiry, 17, 75–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gangestad, S. W., & Scheyd, G. J. (2005). The evolution of human physical attractiveness. Annual Review of Anthropology, 34, 523–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Garn, S. M., & French, N. Y. (1963). Post-partum and age changes in areolar pigmentation. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 85, 873–875.Google Scholar
  35. Garn, S. M., Selby, S., & Crawford, M. R. (1956). Skin reflectance studies in children and adults. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 14, 101–117.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Grammer, K., Fink, B., Juette, A., Ronzal, G., & Thornhill, R. (2001). Female faces and bodies: N-dimensional feature space and attractiveness. In G. Rhodes & I. Zebrowitz (Eds.), Advances in visual cognition I: Facial attractiveness (pp. 91–125). Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing.Google Scholar
  37. Grammer, K., Fink, B., Møller, A. P., & Thornhill, R. (2003). Darwinian aesthetics: sexual selection and the biology of beauty. Biological Reviews, 78, 385–407.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Hallam, M. J., & Nduka, C. (2012). Challenges in obtaining aesthetic breast ideals: Reply to ‘Concepts in aesthetic breast dimensions-Analysis of the ideal breast’. Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, 65, 1277–1278.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Horvath, T. (1981). Physical attractiveness: The influence of selected torso parameters. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 10, 21–24.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Hrdy, S. B. (2013). The ‘one animal in all creation about which man knows the least’. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 368, 20130072.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Janif, Z. J., Brooks, R. C., & Dixson, B. J. (2014). Negative frequency-dependent preferences and variation in male facial hair. Biology Letters, 10, 20130958.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Janif, Z. J., Brooks, R. C., & Dixson, B. J. (2015). Are preferences for women’s hair color frequency-dependent? Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 1, 54–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Jasieñska, G. (2009). Reproduction and lifespan: Trade-offs, overall energy budgets, intergenerational costs, and costs neglected by research. American Journal of Human Biology, 21, 524–532.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Jasieñska, G., Ziomkiewicz, A., Ellison, P. T., Lipson, S. F., & Thune, I. (2004). Large breasts and narrow waists indicate high reproductive potential in women. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 271, 1213–1217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Jones, D. (1996). Physical attractiveness and the theory of sexual selection. Ann Arbor, MI: Museum of Anthropology Press.Google Scholar
  46. Lassek, W. D., & Gaulin, S. J. (2007). Menarche is related to fat distribution. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 133, 1147–1151.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Lassek, W. D., & Gaulin, S. J. (2008). Waist-hip ratio and cognitive ability: Is gluteofemoral fat a privileged store of neurodevelopmental resources? Evolution and Human Behavior, 29, 26–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lassek, W. D., & Gaulin, S. J. (2009). Costs and benefits of fat-free muscle mass in men: Relationship to mating success, dietary requirements, and native immunity. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30, 322–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. LeBlanc, S. A., & Barnes, E. (1974). Letter to the Editor. American Naturalist, 108, 577–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Levin, R. J. (2006). The breast/nipple/areola complex and human sexuality. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 21, 237–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Levin, R., & Meston, C. (2006). Nipple/breast stimulation and sexual arousal in young men and women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 3, 450–454.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Linzell, J. L. (1959). Physiology of the mammary glands. Physiological Reviews, 39, 534–576.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Lipson, S. F., & Ellison, P. T. (1996). Comparison of salivary steroid profiles in naturally occurring conception and non-conception cycles. Human Reproduction, 11, 2090–2096.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Little, A. C., DeBruine, L. M., & Jones, B. C. (2014). Sex differences in attraction to familiar and unfamiliar opposite sex faces: Men prefer novelty and women prefer familiarity. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 973–981.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Low, B. S., Alexander, R. D., & Noonan, K. M. (1987). Human hips, breasts and buttocks: Is fat deceptive? Ethology and Sociobiology, 8, 249–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Mallucci, P., & Branford, O. A. (2012). Concepts in aesthetic breast dimensions: Analysis of the ideal breast. Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, 65, 8–16.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Marlowe, F. (1998). The nubility hypothesis: The human breast as an honest signal of residual reproductive value. Human Nature, 9, 263–271.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Marshall, W. A., & Tanner, J. M. (1969). Variations in pattern of pubertal changes in girls. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 44, 291–303.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Mascia-Lees, F. E., Relethford, J. H., & Sorger, T. (1986). Evolutionary perspectives on permanent breast enlargement in human females. American Anthropologist, 88, 423–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Montagna, W., & Macpherson, E. E. (1974). Some neglected aspects of the anatomy of the breasts. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 63, 10–16.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Morán, C., Hernández, E., Ruíz, J. E., Fonseca, M. E., Bermúdez, J. A., & Zárate, A. (1999). Upper body obesity and hyperinsulinemia are associated with anovulation. Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, 47, 1–5.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Muzaffar, F., Hussain, I., & Haroon, T. S. (1998). Physiologic skin changes during pregnancy: A study of 140 cases. International Journal of Dermatology, 37, 429–431.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Niefert, M. R., Seacat, J. M., & Jobe, W. E. (1985). Lactation failure due to insufficient glandular development of the breast. Pediatrics, 76, 823–828.Google Scholar
  64. Pawlowski, B. (1999). Permanent breasts as a side effect of subcutaneous fat tissue increase in human evolution. Homo, 50, 149–162.Google Scholar
  65. Pawlowski, B. (2001). The evolution of gluteal/femoral fat deposits and balance during pregnancy in bipedal Homo. Current Anthropology, 42, 572–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Pawlowski, B., & Grabarczyk, M. (2003). Center of body mass and the evolution of female body shape. American Journal of Human Biology, 15, 144–150.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Pawson, I. G., & Petrakis, N. L. (1975). Comparison of breast pigmentation among women of different racial groups. Human Biology, 47, 441–450.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Pond, C. (1997). The biological origins of adipose tissue in humans. In M. E. Morbeck, A. Galloway, & A. L. Zihlman (Eds.), The evolving female: A life history perspective (pp. 147–162). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Prantl, L., & Gründl, M. (2011). Males prefer a larger bust size in women than females themselves: An experimental study on female bodily attractiveness with varying weight, bust size, waist width, hip width, and leg length independently. Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 35, 693–702.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Puts, D. A. (2010). Beauty and the beast: Mechanisms of sexual selection in humans. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31, 157–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Short, R. V. (1980). The origins of human sexuality. In C. R. Austin & R. V. Short (Eds.), Reproduction in mammals (Vol. 8, pp. 1–33). Human sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Simblet, S. (2001). Anatomy for the artist. New York: DK Publishing.Google Scholar
  73. Singh, D., Dixson, B. J., Jessop, T. S., Morgan, B., & Dixson, A. F. (2010). Cross-cultural consensus for waist-hip ratio and women’s attractiveness. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31, 176–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Singh, D., & Young, R. K. (1995). Body weight, waist-to-hip ratio, breasts, and hips: Role in judgments of attractiveness and desirability for relationships. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16, 483–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Smith, N. W. (1986). Psychology and evolution of breasts [Letter to the Editor]. Journal of Human Evolution, 1, 285–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Soltanian, H. T., Liu, M. T., Cash, A. D., & Iglesias, R. A. (2012). Determinants of breast appearance and aging in identical twins. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, 32, 846–860.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Swami, V., & Tovée, M. J. (2013a). Resource security impacts men’s female breast size preferences. PLoS ONE, 8(3), e57623.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Swami, V., & Tovée, M. J. (2013b). Men’s oppressive beliefs predict their breast size preferences in women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 1199–1207.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  79. Symons, D. (1979). The evolution of human sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Symons, D. (1995). Beauty is in the adaptations of the beholder: The evolutionary psychology of human female sexual attractiveness. In P. R. Abramson & S. D. Pinkerton (Eds.), Sexual nature, sexual culture (pp. 80–118). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  81. Tanner, J. M. (1962). Growth at adolescence (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications.Google Scholar
  82. Tanner, J. M. (1978). Fetus into man. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  83. van Hooff, M. H. A., Voorhorst, F. J., Kaptein, M. B. H., Hirasing, R. A., Koppenaal, C., & Schoemaker, J. (2000). Insulin, androgen, and gonadotropin concentrations, body mass index, and waist to hip ratio in the first years after menarche in girls with regular menstrual cycles, irregular menstrual cycles, or oligomenorrhea. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 85, 1394–1400.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  84. Vandeweyer, E., & Hertens, D. (2002). Quantification of glands and fat in breast tissue: An experimental determination. Annals of Anatomy, 184, 181–184.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  85. Wells, J. C. K. (2007). Sexual dimorphism of body composition. Best Practice and Research Endocrinology and Metabolism, 21, 415–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Zelazniewicz, A. M., & Pawlowski, B. (2011). Female breast size attractiveness for men as a function of sociosexual orientation (restricted vs. unrestricted). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1129–1135.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barnaby J. Dixson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Melanie Duncan
    • 2
    • 3
  • Alan F. Dixson
    • 2
  1. 1.Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  3. 3.Statistics New ZealandWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations