A team of medics from The Medical University of Warsaw have drawn up a map of attention for the female breast – eye movements of people who are looking at it. Thus, they decided to simplify the work of plastic surgeons and identify the most significant areas for an external observer. It turned out, for example, that the lower part attracted more attention – both male and female – than the upper.
The main task of breast reconstruction operations – for example, after removal of the tumor or increase in volume – to create an externally attractive shape. However, “attractiveness” is an ambiguous term, the surgeon and the patient can interpret it in their own way, including depending on their origin and aesthetic preferences. The gold standard, by which it would be possible to evaluate the shape and symmetry of the breast, does not yet exist.
Piotr Pietruski and his colleagues from the Medical University of Warsaw found a new approach to this problem: they suggested using an Eye-tracker to determine which areas they are paying the most attention to.
The researchers assembled a group of volunteers from 50 men and 50 women without a history of visual impairment, mental disorders, and breast operations. They were shown images of eight types of breasts – three-dimensional models that scientists created based on real photographs. Volunteers had to examine each breast in front, in profile and at an angle of 45 degrees, and then give a rating of 1 to 10.
Participants were asked to evaluate the attractiveness of the breast, and then its symmetry. This, however, was the false goal of the experiment: while the subjects examined the images on a computer screen, their eye movements were recorded using an Eye Tracker.
Participants were given 30 seconds for each image. Of these, it took about 22 seconds on average to review directly, the rest of the time was blinking and viewing other areas of the screen. The researchers found that both women and men most often and for the longest time kept their gaze on the lower parts of the breast (up to 29% of the time) and the area of the nipple (about 28%), a little less often on the breast fold (about 10%), even less often on sternum and very rarely – on the collarbone and neck (less than a percent of the time).
In some areas, such as the lower part of the breast, the researchers found a valid difference: men and women paid more or less attention to them. However, the overall alignment of “priorities” was the same: both groups of subjects looked at the same areas more often.
The procedure for examining the breast also did not differ much: regardless of the task and the sex of the subject, the gaze was primarily focused on the nipple, the lower inner part of the breast and the lower region of the clavicle.
The researchers concluded that in all cases, people pay much more attention to the lower part of the breast, and not to the upper – this is probably due to the fact that the gaze is fixed on the area of the nipple. The attention to the lower part did not depend on the shape of the breast and only increased if the breast was larger and more down.
The authors note that while they cannot link the distribution of the subject’s attention with the assessment he gives to the image, however, this was not the purpose of their study. At the same time, they believe that attention can be fixed not only on attractiveness but also on conspicuous and repulsive features, such as asymmetry. However, their attention map can help surgeons focus on areas of the breast that are really important for perception.