Who should I hang out with if I want to look the most attractive? And how many of said people must I acquire?
The basic idea of research published this week in the journal Psychological Science is that our asymmetries and disproportionalities tend to "average out" amid a group of faces, and our weird little faces are perceived as slightly less weird.
Drew Walker and Edward Vul of the University of California, San Diego, did five experiments wherein subjects rated the attractiveness of people in photographs. Some people were pictured alone, and others were in groups. (Sometimes the "groups" were actually collages of people alone.)
In every case, for men and women, the people in groups got higher attractiveness ratings. Walker reasoned: "Average faces are more attractive, likely due to the averaging out of unattractive idiosyncrasies." They refer to this as the "cheerleader effect."
The cheerleader effect was first entered into Urban Dictionary in 2008, where it is defined by exemplary, hyperbolic premises: "Altogether the cheerleading team looks attractive ... [however] on closer inspection [each person] is quite ugly, [another heteronormative example might be] the spice girls, [or] the group of women who dance in a circle at the bar-usually with a pile of purses in the middle [Ed. note: What?], [or the sort of situation that] occurs at any Canadian fraternity common room [Ed. note: Gross generalization] where all together the men look hot but when checked out are actually bunk-ass."