The science behind why you look hotter in group pics
It’s called the Cheerleader Effect
The group shot is uncomplicated. While you’ll agonise about a solo picture – is that the shadow of a double chin?! – looking at a shot of you and your mates makes you feel simply, genuinely, happy. You reflect on the moment, rather than yourself.
Saying that though, you feel, vaguely, like you might look fitter when you’re pictured en masse. You can’t pinpoint it – surely your features do not change? – but you know that on some elemental level, you like that group shot because you look quite good in it.
And it turns out that this nebulous instinct is substantiated by science. Officially, you look fitter in group pictures. It’s called the Cheerleader Effect.
The research was published in the journal Psychological Science, and was carried out by Drew Walker and Edward Vul of the University of California, San Diego. They found that group shots blur the distraction of an individual’s “asymmetries” – meaning that faces “average out” hotter.
The pair carried out five experiments. They asked individuals to rate the attractiveness of people pictured in photographs. Some posed alone, and others were pictured in groups. Sometimes these groups were in fact collages of pictures of people on their own.
And in every instance, and for both men and women, the individuals rated those pictured in groups as more attractive. “Average faces are more attractive, likely due to the averaging out of unattractive idiosyncrasies,” Walker offered.
Incidentally, this suggests that using a group shot on your Tinder is not cowardly or distracting, and is in fact, pretty smart. “Having a few wingmen or wingwomen may be indeed a good dating strategy, particularly if their facial features complement and average out one’s unattractive idiosyncrasies,” offered Walker and Vul in the academic paper, Psychological Journal.
The Cheerleader effect does not require a group of a specific size: any number of wingmen or women will work in your favour. There’s no gender split. You must decide whether you’ll be more attractive to members of the opposite sex if you stick to same sex wing-people, or a mixed bag of guys and girls.
There’s safety and babedom in numbers.