Bust a move: Can hypnosis increase breast size?

In a previous blog I examined hypnofetishism (particularly because my first two or three academic publications back in the late 1980s were on hypnosis, and I have an interest in sexual paraphilia). While researching that article I came across a few studies that claimed breast size could be increased by hypnosis. As a consequence, this article briefly looks at the science behind the claims.

The first observation I would make is that the number of studies carried out in the area is really small, and (after a search of academic databases) there is little that has been carried out or published in scientific journals in the last 20 years. A number of sources claim the first use of hypnosis to increase breast size was carried out in the early 1920s but the earliest academic paper I have come across that presents some data on the topic is a 1960 paper in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis by Dr. Milton Erikson. The paper comprised (what were essentially) anecdotal case reports of two women whose breasts were said to have got bigger following simple hypnotic suggestion imagery.

In 1969, Dr. Leslie Le Cron published a paper in the Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine. His study comprised a bigger sample of 20 women (aged between 20 and 35 years). Using a hypnotic visualization technique (where the women had to actually visualize their breasts getting bigger), he reported that breast size increased in most of the sample by about one and a half inches. A few of the women (n=3) reported no increase in breast size while 10% (n=2) were reported to have increased their bust size by two inches. (However, as has been poited out by a number of researchers, LeCron didn’t actually specify which part of the breast had been measured).

One of the better studies I have read was done by Dr. James Williams and published in a 1974 issue of the Journal of Sex Research. Williams’ sample consisted of 19 women (aged 18 to 40 years with a mean average of 24 years). The study comprised two stages. In the first phase six women were hypnotized one a week for 12 weeks. Three of the women received a hypnotic suggestion about breast size increase (i.e., to visualize larger breasts) whereas the other three were the control group and received no hypnotic suggestion. At the end of the 12 weeks, the control group showed no increases in bust size whereas the experimental group increased the breast size by an average of just over one and a half inches. In the second stage, a further 13 women underwent a course of hypnotic suggestion and results showed the women to have increased their circumference breast size by an average of 2.11 inches (i.e., two cup sizes).

In 1977, Dr. Allan Staib and Dr. D.R. Logan part replicated Williams’ study with three women who were given hypnotic suggestion. They published similar findings to Williams in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis (i.e., that hypnotic suggestion could increase breast size, with this study reporting an increased average of just under two inches). They also followed up the women and after three months, breast size had reduced (on average) by 19% compared to the end of the initial study.

Also in 1977, Dr. Richard Willard published a study in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. Using a slightly different technique to the previously published studies with a sample of 22 women (aged 19 to 54 years), Willard reported an average increase in breast size of nearly one and a half inches following a 12-week program. In this study, the women practiced self-hypnosis and visual imagery (rather than being hypnotized by a practitioner). Those who could best visualize their breasts getting bigger were the ones who showed the greatest increases in breast size. Other main findings reported were:

  • 85% reported a significant breast enlargement before they had been measured
  • 46% had to buy larger bras after the study
  • The average increase in breast circumference was 1.37 inches
  • The average increase in the vertical breast measurement was 0.67 inches
  • The average increase in horizontal breast measurement was 1.01 inches
  • Only two women who (subjectively) felt there was no significant increase, did (objectively) have a measurable increase in breast size

In an overview of five separate experimental studies (i.e., LeCron; Staib and Logan; Willard; Williams’ and an additional 1977 pilot study published by Dr. G.J. Honoites in the Journal of theInternational Society for Professional Hypnosis), they combined the results and reported that “over a twelve week period, the seventy women who participated in the five experiments showed an average increase of one and a quarter inches in the circumference of each breast”.

There are other more populist academic accounts of success with hypnosis being used to increase bust size by two to three cup sizes (such as Dr. Donald Wilson’s 1979 Natural Bust Enlargement With Total Mind Power, Wendi Friesen’s 1988 Hypnotic Breast Enhancement, BrianPhillips 2001 Hypnobreasts: Hypnotic Language and Guided Imagery for Breasts and Body Image and, Gerry Kein’s 2003 Hypnotic Enhancement of Breasts) and various academic conference papers (such as those by British neurologist Dr. Roy Beran who claimed his research showed breast volume doubling following a 3-month hypnosis program). However, none of these sources have not been peer reviewed and are light on methodological detail, and as such it is almost impossible to evaluate the veracity of their claims. Additionally, a 1983 paper by Australian psychologist and hypnotherapist Dr. Luis Rocella published in Rivista Internazionale di Psicologia e Ipnosi, described his own experiences of treating women wanting enlargement of their breasts via hypnosis. Although success was claimed, there was little methodological detail.

I’ve failed to locate any recently published studies. A recent 2008 review on hypnosis and mind-body interactions by Dr. Grant Benham and Dr. Jarred Younger in The Oxford Handbook of Hypnosis concluded that these early studies uniformly support the use of hypnosis for breast growth”. However, they did note a number of caveats to the reported findings. Their main concerns were that the few published studies (i) varied in scientific rigour, and (ii) tended not use a control group to assess naturally occurring increases or fluctuations of breast size over time. I would also add that all the studies comprise extremely small sample sizes (in fact I would argue that some of these studies are essentially case studies). They ended their section on breast enlargement by hypnosis by saying:

“The topic does not seem to have been revisited in recent years, although it is unknown whether that phenomenon is related more to the lack of scientific interest, or a changing political and social climate. If further research in this field was to be conducted, it would be important to assess cardiovascular and endocrine components (such as progesterone and estrogen)”.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK 

Further reading

Barber, T.X. (1984). Changing ‘unchangeable’ bodily processes by (hypnotic) suggestions: A new look at hypnosis, cognitions, imagining, and the mind-body problem. In A.A. Sheikh (Ed.), Imagination and Healing (pp. 69-128). Farmingdale, NY: Baywood Publishing Company.

Benham, G. & Younger, J. (2008). Hypnosis and mind-body interactions In M. Nash & A. Barnier (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Hypnosis (pp. 393-435). Oxford; Oxford University Press.

Erickson, M.H. (1960). Breast development possibly influenced by hypnosis: Two instances and the psychotherapeutic results. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 2, 157-159.

Friesen, W. (1988). Hypnotic Breast Enhancement. Located at: http://www.wendi.com/

Honoites, G.J. (1977). Hypnosis and breast enlargement: A pilot study. Journal of theInternational Society for Professional Hypnosis, 6 (4), 8-12.

LeCron, M.L. (1969). Breast development through hypnotic suggestions. Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine, 16, 58-61.

Phillips, B.D. (2005). Hypnosis and breast enlargement. December 5. Located at: http://briandavidphillips.net/2005/12/05/hypnosis-and-breast-enhancement/

Roccella, L. (1983). The development and enlargement of the breasts by hypnosis. Rivista Internazionale di Psicologia e Ipnosi, 24, 345-350.

Staib, A.R. & D.R. Logan (1977). Hypnotic Stimulation of Breast Growth. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 19, 201-208.

Willard, R.D. (1977). Breast enlargement through visual imagery and hypnosis. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 19, 195-200.

Williams, J.E. (1974). Stimulation of breast growth by hypnosis. Journal of Sex Research, 10, 316-326.

Williams, J.E. (1979). Physiology of induced breast growth, Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine, 26(3), 93-105.

Wilson, D.L. (1979). Natural Bust Enlargement with Total Mind Power. Larkspur, California: Total Mind Power Institute.

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 600 research papers, four books, over 130 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on October 3, 2012, in Case Studies, Fame, Obsession, Popular Culture, Psychology, Sex and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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