People Look Prettier in Groups says Science

If you watched How I Met Your Mother, you may be familiar with Barney Stinson’s “Cheerleader Effect”, where he states that people become more attractive in a group and surrounded by friends.

Well, a recent study put out by the Department of Psychology at the University of California found that this may be more than just a vague assumption put forth in a TV show (which could have had a better ending, by the way.)

People seem more attractive in a group than in isolation.

The study’s title cuts to the chase “Hierarchical Encoding Makes Individuals in a Group Seem More Attractive”.

“We found evidence of the cheerleader effect—people seem more attractive in a group than in isolation.”


They believe that there are three effects that create this cognitive phenomena.

  1. The visual system automatically computes ensemble representations of faces presented in a group
  2. Individual members of the group are biased toward this ensemble average
  3. Average faces are attractive.

Well, next time someone tells me I have a very average face I’ll take it as compliment I guess.

“Taken together, these phenomena suggest that individual faces will seem more attractive when presented in a group because they will appear more similar to the average group face, which is more attractive than group members’ individual faces. We tested this hypothesis in five experiments in which subjects rated the attractiveness of faces presented either alone or in a group with the same gender. Our results were consistent with the cheerleader effect.”

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The study used groups of both genders, and also groups of mixed genders. The results were consistent over all the groups. In a group, the individuals were found to be more attractive than when rated by themselves.

“The results of our studies are in favor of the selective attention account: People selectively attend to the most attractive members of a group and their attractiveness has a greater influence on the evaluation of the group.”

I’m not going to bother with makeup anymore, I’m just going to keep my friends around. They can do all the heavy attractiveness lifting for me.