People look hotter as part of a group than alone, according to findings recently published in Psychological Science. Fans of How I Met Your Mother will recognize the concept as the “cheerleader effect,” explained by the womanizing Barney Stinson.
University of California, San Diego psychologists confirmed that people average out the faces in a group, making everyone look more attractive. (Averaging eliminates idiosyncrasies that are perceived as ugly.) Although the show focused on its effect on women, the cheerleader effect — “also known as the bridesmaid paradox, sorority girl syndrome ... the Spice Girls conspiracy” — also works on men. Still, the boost is small: just enough to lift someone from the 49th percentile of attractiveness to the 51st. Researchers Drew Walker and Edward Vul explained personal applications of these findings: “[I]ndividuals 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.” In other words, the ideal wingman is the friend who has the opposite facial abnormality as you.
Keep in mind their findings are based on a study using just 130 undergraduate students. More data is necessary to determine why America’s best and brightest are designing experiments based on sitcoms.