Heterosexual men are more willing to assist women when they have visibly erect nipples, particularly when that assistance involves greater interaction with them, according to new research published in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.
The authors of the new study had previously found that, for men, nipple erection serves as an indicator of sexual arousal. “So men perceive women with nipple erection as sexually aroused. How does this affect their behavior toward them?” wondered Rebecca L. Burch, a professor at the State University of New York at Oswego.
To examine this topic, the researchers had 421 heterosexual college students view a slideshow of various women in real-world settings. There were two versions of each image: one photo with visible nipple erection and another photo without.
After every photo, the participants answered a set of questions about their perceptions of each woman and their likelihood of engaging in various altruistic behaviors towards her, such as lending her $100.
The researchers found that men perceived women with erect nipples as more deserving of help compared to the same women without erect nipples. This was particularly true when the help involved greater interaction with the woman, such as tutoring her or stopping to provide aid if her car had broken down.
Male participants also expected women with erect nipples to behave more altruistically toward them and were more willing to include them in their social circle.
“That men expect greater altruistic acts from women with erect nipples is further support that men perceive these women as more attractive,” Burch and her co-author, David R. Widman, wrote in their study. “Given that altruistic acts are generally seen as positive, socially desirable behaviors, the enhancement of these acts may be taken as the application of the halo effect.”
Female participants, on the other hand, were not more willing to help women with erect nipples compared women without erect nipples. The researchers also found that nipple erection made women less willing to include another woman in their social circle.
“Do women interact with women with nipple erection differently? Our research shows that they do; they want to avoid them,” Burch explained.
The researchers added that the findings raise further questions, opening up a whole new line of potential research.
“All the stimulus materials used depicted young women with attractive bodies,” they explained in their study. “No work has yet been done to examine the limits of the ‘nipple erection effect.’ Does it shift with older, larger, or less attractive women? Additionally, all photos had the faces obscured. What happens when the target women have differing facial cues, such as anger or disgust?”
The study, “The Point of Nipple Erection 2: The Effect of Nipple Erection on Intended and Expected Altruism“, was published March 1, 2020.