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


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.


Breast size Areolar pigmentation Attractiveness Sexual selection 


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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

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