The brilliance of How I Met Your Mother has finally been proven by science! It was really only a matter of time.
If you watch HIMYM then you will no doubt be familiar with the ‘Cheerleader Effect’. This theory – also known as The Bridesmaid Paradox, Sorority Girl Syndrome, and, for a brief window in the mid-90’s, The Spice Girl Conspiracy – is one put forward by HIMYM’s Barney Stinson stating that people are more attractive when surrounded by friends. And guess what, last week a study published by Psychological Science found that when we visually take in a group of people at once we tend to average out their facial features. The study showed participants pictures of 100 people and asked them to rate their attractiveness. Sometimes the person being rated was in a group and other times the picture had been cropped to show them alone. Staggeringly, participants rated both male and female subjects more attractive in the group shots than when pictured alone! The rating was not substantially higher, but enough to bounce someone’s attractiveness up by about 2 or 3% and let’s be honest, some of us need all the help we can get!
Now you may be wondering, if a groups looks are averaged, wouldn’t the more attractive people be brought down by their less attractive friends? Well here is the mini cherry on top of the regular cherry on top of the sundae of awesomeness that is this study. It turns out that when we average the faces of a group, whether attractive or unattractive, we actually prefer their ‘new faces’ to the original because their idiosyncrasies have been averaged out. What this means is, “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.”
This study brings so much good news for us average folks, but it left us here at Social Student with a few unanswered questions. What happens the next morning, when you wake up next to your latest wide-eyed conquest? Will she still be as attractive without her narrow-eyed winglady? It looks like we will need to perform some studies of our own – for science, of course.