Want to know how sports teams get their cheerleaders to look more attractive? Besides short skirts and sultry dance routines? They hire a bunch of ‘em. That’s right, people are seen as more attractive in a group than they are alone, and it’s called the cheerleader effect.
A study published in Psychological Science has found that the same faces that appear in group shots are rated as more attractive as then they appear solo. In one experiment, researchers presented participants pictures of groups of people in a social setting, and second set that consisted of portrait shots of the same people. The participants rated the faces in the group shot as more attractive than the profile shots.
Fair enough—but what if social situations make people more attractive? The researchers repeated the experiment, but this time they simply arranged the portraits into group sets, and had participants rate those. Once more, they rated people as more attractive if they appeared in a group set than if they appeared by themselves.
According to the researchers, we tend to like things like symmetry and averageness when rating attractiveness, and seeing people in a group lets us average out their attractiveness (as well as minimize any asymmetry).
Although, with all due respect to the researchers, a lot of cheerleaders are pretty attractive solo or in a group.