The Cheerleader Effect is Backed by Science

The "Cheerleader Effect" is a theory advanced by the character Barney Stinson on the TV show How I Met Your Mother (although it did not originate with him) that says women look more attractive in a group than they do individually. Scientific research confirms that this is true.

When someone is looking at a group of people, that person's brain tends to "average out" the facial features of everyone in the group, making all group member's faces look more average than they would on their own.

Calling someone average-looking might not sound like a compliment. But Drew Walker, study researcher from the University of California, San Diego, explained in a press release that "average faces are more attractive, likely due to the averaging out of unattractive idiosyncracies."

The study included 130 participants. They were shown pictures of 300 different people and rated the attractiveness of each person twice — once from a group picture with two other people of the same gender in it, and once from a cropped picture showing only one person. The participants rated the person more attractive in the group shot than when they looked at the person pictured alone.  

The difference is small -only about 2%- but it is a significant difference, which goes for groups of men as well as women. There's one more reason to keep a group of friends around you, but strangers will do just as well. -via Uproxx

(Image credit: Flickr user Christopher Wells)


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I agree that there is an initial "wow" effect, but it is only temporary. Once the eye has a chance to scan it pretty quickly picks out which individuals are most desirable.
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