The cheerleader effect

GIVE ME A B!: A new study finds that people look more attractive in packs.
GIVE ME A B!: A new study finds that people look more attractive in packs.

I can't say it's always easy having drop-dead gorgeous girlfriends. You have moments of hoping for at least one friend that you don't feel average next to. Alas, no such luck.

There is however an upside. Sure, they're nice enough. But, c'mon now, who ever wanted friends for the quality of their company?

No, it's all about the Cheerleader Effect apparently. And this means that our fine looking friends actually help make us look better by upping our attractiveness average.

"People seem more attractive in a group than in isolation," said the authors of a new study published last week in the journal Psychological Science.

The researchers, from the University of California, performed five experiments in which 130 participants rated the attractiveness of faces presented either alone or in a group with the same sex.

In every experiment, for men and women, those pictured in groups got higher attractiveness ratings. This was even the case when they montaged a "group" together using the same person's photo.

The Cheerleader Effect is not a new phrase and may have been coined back in 2008 on the TV show, How I Met Your Mother.

The Cheerleader Effect also appears in the Urban Dictionary: "It's when you see a group of girls or guys and they look hot, but when you see each person individually they are NOT, that an effect, when they are in groups they look hot."

It doesn't seem to matter how big your group is either.

"Having a few wingmen or wingwomen," the authors say, "may indeed be a good dating strategy, particularly if their facial features complement and average out one's unattractive idiosyncrasies."

That said, it's not all bad news for the unnattractive.

"Perhaps it's like Tolstoy's families: beautiful people are all alike, but every unattractive person is unattractive in their own way," the authors (generously?) point out.

"If the average is more attractive because unattractive idiosyncrasies tend to be averaged out, then individuals with complimentary facial features - one person with narrow eyes and one person with wide eyes, for example - would enjoy a greater boost in perceived attractiveness when seen together, as compared to groups comprised of individuals who have more similar features."

Sydney Morning Herald