Hierarchical encoding makes individuals in a group seem more attractive

Psychol Sci. 2014 Jan;25(1):230-5. doi: 10.1177/0956797613497969. Epub 2013 Oct 25.


In the research reported here, we found evidence of the cheerleader effect-people seem more attractive in a group than in isolation. We propose that this effect arises via an interplay of three cognitive phenomena: (a) The visual system automatically computes ensemble representations of faces presented in a group, (b) individual members of the group are biased toward this ensemble average, and (c) average faces are attractive. 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.

Keywords: face perception; visual perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beauty*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult