Who Would You Help?
You're in the middle of your workout when you notice two equally attractive female lifters in need of help. Both are struggling to unload the plates off a barbell.
What do you do?
Well, according to some new science, if you're an average straight male, you will (perhaps unconsciously) help out the woman with the most erect nipples.
"Wait, did he say nipples?" Yes. Hold on, it gets weirder.
According to the same study, if you're an average heterosexual woman, you'll help out the woman-in-need whose nipples you CAN'T see.
What in the name of Queen Areola, Ruler of Planet Niptune, is going on here?
Sometimes I wonder if researchers just think up fun stuff to study because they're bored of hunching over microscopes and pouring over metadata. Then, to justify their funding, they give their study a fancy name like "The Effect of Nipple Erection on Intended and Expected Altruism."
Anyway, that's the name of this study. I'm not even kidding.
Researchers showed over 400 college-aged men and women photos of females in need of help. After looking at the photos, the study participants were asked a series of questions about whether or not they'd help out the needy females.
The scenarios involved things like helping the woman carry a heavy box, change a tire, tutor her for free, or loan her a hundred bucks.
Two sets of photos were used. In one set, the women needing help had visibly erect nipples. In the other, nary a nip was seen. (I assume some Photoshopping was involved.)
- Male participants were MORE likely to show altruistic helping behavior if the woman in the photo had visibly erect nipples. They perceived the "my eyes are up here" women as more deserving of help.
- Female participants were LESS likely to help out the women with erect nipples compared to those with shy nipples. In fact, they even said they'd be less likely to include the nippy women in their social circles.
Erect nipples are perceived as an indicator of sexual arousal. Naturally, whether men consciously notice or not, they're drawn to the "more attractive" and possibly horny women. Evolutionary biology, innate mating behavior, and all that jazz.
Now, of course, hard nips aren't always a sign of sexual arousal, but they're perceived that way. Hey, mister, maybe she's just cold.
The researchers noted that altruism, in this case, may not be altruistic at all. Instead, the helping behavior is just a chance to interact socially with a potential new bed buddy.
Okay, so why did the female participants say they would most likely NOT help the women with their high beams on?
While the researchers didn't get into that much, previous research shows that women get competitive around other females they perceive as more attractive. Those women are viewed as competition. It's a lizard-brain instinct, at least according to many biologists.
No, though testosterone is often perceived in negative ways. Sure, it's associated with aggression, but aggression can be a good thing: being aggressively dedicated to your family, being aggressive toward your career goals, or even aggressively cooking your wife her favorite dinner because she likes honey-glazed salmon and no one – NO ONE! – is going to stop you from making her some honey-glazed salmon!
In fact, in the absence of a threat or competition, testosterone is associated with generosity, protectiveness, and generally pro-social behaviors.
So, let's not associate all male altruism with sex-seeking and social dominance. Sometimes we don't even care about nipples. Especially if she has a nice butt. (Zing!)
Nipples affect behavior. If you strive for self-awareness and subscribe to the mantra of "know thyself," I suppose that should be added to your list of life skills.
Men should at least be aware of these primitive but powerful instincts, especially if a woman is asking to borrow a hundred bucks.
Women, however, should make sure their headlights are shining brightly if they do need to borrow a hundred bucks. They should also help out women with perky nipples. Hey, ma'am, maybe she's just cold.
Listen to the science.
- Burch RL et al. The point of nipple erection 2: The effect of nipple erection on intended and expected altruism. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences. Advance online publication. 2021.