A Strange Way To Improve Your Appearance

If I showed you a photo of  one individual and asked you to rate his/her dreamstimefree_2376014attractiveness, you could easily do it. Would your rating change if I showed you a photo of that same person in a group of others? (Hint: the correct answer is ‘yes’)

There is an idea in psychology called the Cheerleader Effect (Janice, don’t take this personally).  It says that people seem more attractive in a group than alone. Seems a little fishy, but a new article in Psychological Science (Jan., 2014 V25, #1) says that the Cheerleader Effect is real and the authors explain why we look better in a group.

Viewing people in a group, the brain goes to work and:

  1. Visually we compute the ensemble representation of faces.
  2. Individual faces are averaged into the group.
  3. Average (not average looking but an average of all the faces) is more attractive than individual idiosyncratic faces.

This means, in English, that individual faces seem more attractive when presented in a group because each face appears closer to average. Unattractive features are averaged out. For example, if one person had a big chin and another had a tiny chin, they both benefit from the group glance. they look less attractive alone or with other similarly sized chin folks.

Source: D Walker and E Vul from the  U of California, San Diego

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