After reading about this cognitive bias, I feel like I need to change all of my social media pictures from individual photos to group photos, preferably a group photo where everyone is better-looking than me, which is easily done. In fact, it would be impossible for that not to happen.
The reason? The cheerleader effect.
The cheerleader effect, also known as the group attractiveness effect, is the cognitive bias that causes people to think individuals are more attractive when they are in a group.
The phrase was coined by the fictional character Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) in “Not a Father’s Day”, an episode of the television series How I Met Your Mother, first aired in November 2008. Barney points out to his friends a group of women that initially seem attractive, but who are all unattractive when examined individually.
This was followed up by research in 2013 by Drew Walker and Edward Vul of the University of California, San Diego, in which they 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.”
Walker and Vul concluded that “Having a few wingmen or wingwomen may indeed be a good dating strategy.”
It may also be a way for me to not immediately turn people away from my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn pages as well as my WordPress About Me page. Such turning away can wait until people actually browse through such sites.
I need to find that photo of me and my wingmen – Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Tom Cruise – hanging out on the Riviera. Once I do, you’ll find it on all my social media pages. It’s the ultimate averaging process for a guy like me.
I just hope the sudden surge in my popularity doesn’t overwhelm the servers…