Science of Love, Sex, and Babies

How much does cup size really matter?

Posted in news by jenapincott on January 25, 2009

Of her mammoth mammaries Dolly Parton once said, “I don’t know if I’m supporting them, or they’re supporting me.” The price of surgical enhancement: about $10,000. But do big-breasted women really attract more male attention ? To answer the question, psychologist Nicolas Gurguen — who has studied the sexual benefits of makeup, dog ownership, and other social cues– has now added cup size to his repertoire.

Gurguen knew that previous studies found that guys rate large breasts as more physically attractive than average breasts. But does that affect men’s behavior in real-life situations? To find the answer, he created a variety of studies involving young women and an assortment of padded bras. In one experiment, young women were instructed to sit in a nightclub for several nights — sometimes unpadded, sometimes lightly padded, and sometimes heavily padded under a snug shirt — while the researchers counted the number of men who approached them. Unsurprisingly, the bigger a woman’s breasts appeared, the more men approached her.

But here’s the nagging question: Does having big breasts simply boost a woman’s confidence, encouraging her to unconsciously display more seductive body language? Could it be the attitude rather than the boobs that actually attracts guys? Addressing this technicality in a second experiment, Gurguen recruited a twenty-year-old flat-chested woman and gave her his stash of trick bras. Put on a bra under a tight shirt, he said, stand on the side of the road like a hitchhiker, and stick out your thumb to catch a ride. Cars sped by quickly; motorists had time to see the woman’s silhouette but not her expression or any other subtle body language. The woman alternated between wearing unpadded (A-cup), lightly padded (B-cup equivalent), and heavily padded (C-cup equivalent) bras. The results? Size, it turns out, really does make a difference. Significantly more male drivers pulled over when the woman was wearing the C-cup bra than the A-cup bra. (Important: Although more cars stopped for the woman with a C-cup than B-cup silhouette, the difference was not statistically significant.) Female drivers, meanwhile, were no more compelled to stop for a bosomy hitchhiker.

Why are men so attracted to breasts? Do they signal receptivity, fertility, nurture? In BLONDES I address the question from a scientific standpoint — there are several fascinating psychological and evolutionary theories, including a new one from neuroscientist Larry Young that I blogged about earlier this week. Breasts are a hot research topic in these troubled times. Perhaps Gurguen will investigate a link between recessions and breast size. To what extent are women really still willing to pump and pad themselves? How much is a little lift really worth?


18 Responses

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  1. Cicero said, on January 25, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    If all they see if a silhouette, then the driver has very little indication that the woman is actually a woman and not a long haired hippy. Breasts would be the only real marker…

  2. Callan said, on January 26, 2009 at 8:13 am

    There was a show called ‘How art changed the world’ I think it was called.

    In one part it showed how certain baby birds identify their parents beak by a red mark on it. So if you wave a stick with a red mark near them, they start begging it for food. BUT if you wave a stick with TWO red marks, they prefer to beg that stick over a single stripe stick, even though no parents have two stripes. They liked it more, even though it doesn’t exist/make sense.

    It was in regard to ancient idols of females, where they had massive breasts, and buttocks, and…ahem. But the idols had no arms and no face. Thousands like it had been found. All of them focused on ‘red stripes’ so to speak.

  3. opusthepoet said, on January 26, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    It is my belief that young men respond to breast size as an indicator of sexual maturity, pre-pubescent girls have no breasts, maturing girls have middlin’ breasts, and women ready to marry have large breasts. Mature men realize that breasts are just mostly fatty tissues and that what is important is the fatty organ above the breasts inside the skull…

  4. judy said, on January 28, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    but the real lesson here? keep a padded trick-bra in your glove compartment in case of emergency! good to know. right now i only have a flashlight.

    • jenapincott said, on January 29, 2009 at 1:35 am

      I agree — that’s the best lesson to draw!

    • Josie said, on January 18, 2010 at 12:42 am

      Judy you are HILARIOUS I almost bought a flashlight for my glovebox today – hey I’m heading to Victoria’s now!

  5. stopbadscience said, on February 14, 2009 at 9:49 am

    I have very small breasts yet have always attracted more male attention than the other female friends I go out with of various shapes. My friends have asked, in exasperation, how do I do it. Well I don’t flirt or even notice these men, but they’ll come up and ask me if I want a drink or if I will dance with them. So there can’t be a whole lot of importance on breast size although I’m sure its a minor factor. Really the kind of men who especially go for a woman on the basis of large breasts are probably fetishists and make rubbish boyfriends. It is unfortunate how much anxiety this issue causes amongst many women. I blame the media.

    • Ravi said, on July 27, 2009 at 2:27 am

      Hi It true as a male i love with small breast, well i do not think size do matter. thanks for sharing good day

  6. notstopbadscience said, on March 18, 2009 at 11:13 am

    @ stopbadscience:

    The most obvious explanation for your anecdote is that you are simply much more attractive than your friends. Congratulations. Your example, however, being anecdotal, is totally worthless to science without strong controls and regulation.

    Just because you might harbor jealousy over larger breasts—despite the fact that your smaller breasts have not hurt and, likely, flatter you—does not make research into their effect on the male brain bad science. Time and again psychologists have given ample reason and evidence why, all other things being equal, a man will choose a woman with larger breasts, just as a woman will choose a man who is taller.

    • hey said, on December 8, 2009 at 7:34 am

      the similie you made in the last sentence (a man will choose a woman with larger breasts, just as a woman will choose a man who is taller) just threw the point you were trying to make to stopbadscience RIGHT out the window lol dumb.

      • notstopbadscience said, on December 8, 2009 at 2:03 pm


        Try to keep up here, guy. I told Stopbadscience that all of her male attention is most probably because she’s an attractive woman, not because she has small breasts (as she seems to infer). I said if all other variables were *equal* that — just as women will choose a taller mate — men will typically choose a bustier one. I know reading comprehension is hard, but try.

        Fact of the matter is that — unless you’ve found a fetishist for small breasts — if you take the exact same woman (looks, personality, mannerisms, intelligence) and have one version of her with an a-cup and one version with a b- or c-cup (all natural — this is a theoretical question, we’re not discussing the merits of surgery here), I’m sure at least 90% of the male population will have a preference for the larger cup-size. It’s instinctual. We are, after all, animals.

  7. […] Does makeup really make a woman more attractive to men?; Are dog owners more likely to get dates?; How much does cup size really matter?; and How does priming men to think about love change their […]

  8. Callan said, on December 20, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    The exact same personality between two women?

    I might be an animal, but that’d creep me out so much I wouldn’t think about breast size.

    I get your point, but I think it’d be better put if you saw two women and hadn’t gotten to talk with them yet, and could only talk with one – you’d probably gravitate toward the bustier one. Though it must be said most men could realise that and go ‘Do I always want to gravitate toward the bustier one’. It’s not like those trials with zebra finches where they always go toward the bird with the shinier beak.

  9. Me said, on February 6, 2011 at 9:14 am

    if you take the exact same woman looks, personality, mannerisms, intelligence – stupid and imossible. And you admitted stopbadscience is more attractive that her bigger breasted friends! How shallow you have to be to limit woman’s attractiveness to her cup size?! What about face and the general impression she gives? Voice, the way she moves, sense of humour?

  10. notstopbadscience said, on February 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    @ Me:

    Your comment, besides being late to the party, shows a surprising lack of comprehension. The entire point that “Stopbadscience” was trying to make was that, contrary to thorough studies by psychologists (cited here and elsewhere), she thinks breast-size doesn’t matter because, by her anecdote, it’s never negatively affected her ability to attract men. I explicitly told her that her success could be attributed to other factors (which could include facial features, voice, poise, personality), and not because of or in spite of her breast-size. It is shallow to base a woman’s attractiveness strictly on cup-size, but that is expressly what I am not doing — it’s merely another arrow in the quiver (one that is psychologically and evolutionarily significant).

    And, c’mon, your “stupid and impossible” comment? Not only is it a hypothetical, the experiment in the article itself describes using the same woman and either downplaying or embellishing the size of her breasts — and discovering that, all things being equal, the larger her breasts are portrayed, the more attention she receives. I’m stunned I have to explain such simple concepts.

  11. Lilyofthevalley said, on May 14, 2011 at 4:47 am

    Hmmm… well, it looks to me that most men do not base a woman’s attractiveness on her breast size alone. If there is one very attractive, small busted woman among a group of other women not so attractive, then it seems that men really do base their attraction on TOTAL looks, not just her breast size. Large breast size may be the “initial” attraction. Larger breasts, taller men are just preferences. There is a lot more to it than just scientic studies, as we know, we are a much more complex species.

  12. Bellatrix said, on August 15, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    I prefer short men. 😉 And preference for large boobies is also a fetish. Any sexual desire or urge that goes beyond genitals is a fetish, normally constructed by societal norms. Western men prefer big boobies because that is what the porn stars have. The average man finds most attractive whatever porn tells him, too. The same studies using here also reveal that the biggest advantage for a woman (according to dating sampling) is her weight. The thinner the woman, the more successful she is. This is on par with men’s height, not boob size. There is no coded dna or gene trends that prove that normal sized boobs (Over 60% of thin women have a cups (before porn came along and decided that men should like big fake boobies. And men complied), so it’s the average size, making everything else either big or small) and plumper women are less attractive than larger boobed and/or thinner women. It’s social conditioning and normalisation. Human sexualatity is fluid and (unfornately) regulated.

  13. DietCokeLover said, on September 12, 2011 at 7:47 am

    I agree with Bellatrix. I think a lot of what we like are really influenced by our cultural society, and what is told to us is attractive. In some cultures, lighter skinned women are considered more beautiful than darker skinned women (India, for example. You’ll never see a main actress that is dark skinned). Our media conditions us to believe that women with larger breasts are more attractive. No rocket science here.

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