7 Scientific Reasons we like Breasts

Let me first start by saying that I am a feminist, I support women’s rights, equal rights, and I fight against human trafficking, prostitution, and the objectification of female form in our culture (and in many others).

That said, I am heterosexual and I naturally appreciate the female figure. As a sociology minor and a man working on fighting human trafficking and in general, fighting against the objectification of women, I wanted to know the answer to a question I think a lot of us have had: Why do we like breasts so much? As a culture, it seems we have a love affair with breasts and I wanted to know what the reason was behind it. However, I wanted to make sure all this pontificating was rooted in scientific evidence instead of simple conjecture. Here are my findings, enjoy.

1) We like nice round things

rounded rects-thumb2Keith Lang, of the design site uiandus.com,  interviewed Professor Jurg Nanni, (who wrote “Visual Perception, a book about how our brains understand and process visual information) and asked him about rounded corners, specifically wondering if rounded rectangles would take our brains less time to process than hard angled ones.

"You are absolutely right. A rectangle with sharp edges takes indeed a little bit more cognitive visible effort than for example an ellipse of the same size. Our "fovea-eye" is even faster in recording a circle. Edges involve additional neuronal image tools. The process is therefore slowed down."
-Professor Jurg Nanni

This means that our brains simply process round things faster than square things. Our minds prefer, and feel more comfortable looking at and observing nicely designed round objects. This is partly why most newly designed software, websites, programs, and even digital devices are all nicely rounded and curved.

2) We like nice soft things and touching

touching-1Many studies show that we simply like touching and perhaps it’s fundamental to human communication, bonding and health. One study, publiblished by Psychological Science claims that simply being touched anywhere by the opposite sex can reduce stress.

However, an article on Oprah.com, entitled “Why Sadness Makes Us Susceptible to Shag Carpets” addresses the tactile question of soft things and how it reduces stress. The article cites a study done in the Journal of Consumer Research, and perhaps answers the question why we might be drawn to softer things.

‘In a series of five experiments involving hand lotion and mood inducement, researchers at the University of Florida found that participants in a negative state were more responsive to the way the lotion felt than to the way the package looked, and that they derived more pleasure than the positive-mood participants to the feel of the lotion on their hands. “

3) Distance from the Face

Scientists researching human development have noticed that infants at the age of breastfeeding have eyesight that focuses to about 8-12 inches. This is the same distance from the chest to the mother’s face.

This was a good evolutionary adjustment our species took to improve bonding between mother and child, and apparently even improve communication skills as well.

“Feeding time is also designed to encourage your baby’s reception of positive activities such as studying your face, exchanging expressions with you and sharing verbal cues. Not only does this deepen the attachment between the two of you, but much of your baby’s early verbal, emotional and social learning is meant to occur during this focused time.”

Catch that? Facial expressions is incredibly important in human communication, this is why babies need to learn it from their mothers while nursing. Adults, of course, need to look at each other’s faces while communicating in order to pick up on those same facial expressions. And half of those adults have what it takes to feed babies, just 8-12 inches away from their faces. Location, location, location.

4) We like babies

..and things having to do with babies...

Photo by: Nathan Carlsen
(that's my ultra cute nephew)

An article published at Livescience.com cites a study published by Elsevier, where adults without children were shown images of other peoples babies, and “triggered..a deeply embedded response to reach out and care for that child.” Another study by the Centre of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience (CFIN) at Aarhus University, quantifies what parents already know, that the sound of a baby crying reduces reaction time, even when the task is unrelated to the baby.

And NBCnew.com, citing the psychological journal Emotion, claims that not only do women get “baby fever” (or the overwhelming desire to have a child) but so do men.

With all this hardwired baby loving psychology swirling around in our brains, it’s no wonder we like things having to do with them. Refer to point #3.


5) Hourglass figure like crack to men

200px-Rubin2The hour glass figure is a perfect example of good, negative space design.

"Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, and not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space is occasionally used to artistic effect as the "real" subject of an image. The use of negative space is a key element of artistic composition." -Wikipedia

The coke bottle and the corvette are two examples of art imitating life, both were designed to imitate a womanly figure. Wired.com cites a study that says, scientifically, this shape is like crack to men.

6) Female attire teaches us where to look, and it’s not the face

5300 3927-pro-flexibles-v-neck-top largeSome say revealing clothing on women cause earthquakes, let’s hope that’s not true.. Getting practical, what does an arrow do? Point to where you’re supposed to look at. And what is a “V” if not a simplified arrow for our eyes to follow?  Women, unconsciously, might be part of the problem here, as researchers at the University of Texas in Austin have found women tend to wear more revealing clothing during their lady time of the month. Why? To entice us unsuspecting men to look south of their face, find them attractive, and become their baby daddies.. Science!

7) We’re told to like them, so we do

Perhaps this is all self fulfilling prophecy when sex, (and specifically breasts) are used in advertising. We know advertising works, that’s why a lot of company’s income is almost solely based on advertising, like Google or any of the major networks on television. And A LOT of advertising is based on sex. And OF COURSE sex sells, at least that’s what we’re all told and believe. Just take Godaddy. They went from “16 percent share of the market and now boast a better than 50 percent share of the market and over a billion in sales”, with commercials based solely on sex appeal.

But why? Because we like to feel good, and when we feel good, we’ll buy what’s in front of us.
And sex, or just the idea of it,  makes us feel fantastic.

But some researches, at Iowa State University, suggest that perhaps sex appeal doesn’t work as well as everyone thinks. This seems to be true if you consider a list of 100 best ad campaigns of the century, only 8 of them involve sex appeal. So what’s going on here?

Companies like Godaddy, and others, continue to believe that sex appeal is the best way to sell their product. And who can argue with their success? From 19 percent market share to 50 percent? That’s proof that sex appeal works! Right? Well, it’s proof that advertising in general works, that’s for sure. However, some ads are teaching us something entirely different from what they’re advertising. As Cracked.com showed us, sometimes viewers don’t get it and think an ad is about spaghetti sauce, when it was really for Alka-Seltzer. Perhaps the same thing is happening to us with sex in advertising.

Scientists say subliminal advertising does actually work. So, as we get told over and over again, “Look at these! They’re great! Women! Breasts! Awesome! And oh yeah, get a domain name.” Sure, we might get a domain name, but now we REALLY know that breasts are super great.

Here’s a great quote:
“I think it’s a lot of ignorance and so it’s really hard to get mad at that,” she said. “It’s almost an ethnocentric, western perspective on how we see breast in our culture, and it’s definitely not a global view. … It’s really, really hard for people to understand that breasts are mammary glands and this is what they were designed for, and there’s nothing [any more] sexual than any other part of the body.”

Who’s that from? She’s the woman who posed for a Time magazine cover breastfeeding her three year old son. Now, that right there will get some raised eyebrows and controversy about public breastfeeding (which, in my opinion, is totally fine btw) or how old you should breastfeed your child (three years...a bit on the creepy side...)

But some at The Gaurdian argue (and others I'm sure) that the way in which the photo was shot takes away from the actual discussion it was intended to invoke.

No matter where your opinion lies on the subject, I’ll bet we can all agree that putting that women with her mammary gland exposed increased Time Magazine’s sales. See, it works!

Feel free to discuss:

Also, if anyone has suggestions for more scientifc reasons, or better evidence for a point above, feel free to post that below.

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