Apparently This Matters: Being average is sexy

Story highlights

  • Going out in groups makes you more attractive than going out alone
  • The Cheerleader Effect was coined in the hit TV show "How I Met Your Mother"
  • Faces in a group tend to average together which, in turn, averages OUT appearance flaws

At best I'm a 5.

I'm not complaining. Some of you top out at 4. Won't name names, but I've seen you walking into Great Clips.

Usually when I'm walking out of Old Navy. So, we're in this thing together.

But, yes, at best I'm a 5. On a good day. With poor lighting. At the Gathering of the Juggalos.

And I'm totally OK with my status as a 5. Because, according to a new study, having average appearance is sexy. GQ hasn't called yet about a photo shoot, but I've laid out my very best cargo shorts just to be safe.

"Apparently This Matters" Is Jarrett Bellini's weekly (and somewhat random) look at social-media trends.

This is all based on a theory called The Cheerleader Effect, and it originally spawned from the hit TV show "How I Met Your Mother," when Neil Patrick Harris' character, Barney Stinson, explained the phenomenon to his friends while admiring patrons in a bar.

Barney says, "The Cheerleader Effect is when a group of women seems hot, but only as a group. Just like with cheerleaders. They seem hot, but take each one of them individually ... sled dogs!"

Apparently, it's all about social averaging within a group, where, somehow, the appearance of those who are ugly improves and the appearance of those who are beautiful declines into some sort of perfect middle ground.

Basically, the entire group becomes an Applebee's menu, which is excitingly tasty.

At first glance.

But that's what we're talking about here. That initial appearance.

And The Cheerleader Effect definitely applies to both sexes, as was proven by actual researchers at the University of California, San Diego where this real-life study was conducted for both men and women.

The results, recently published in the journal Psychological Science, reveal that a good way to boost your overall attractiveness when out in public is to simply surround yourself with other people. Preferably with people you know.

"Heck of a bris, eh? Hi, I'm Dave."

Of course, it all seems rather obvious. In social situations, being surrounded by others makes you more desirable than being a mouth-breathing loner surrounded by self-doubt. But this study isn't about your vibe. It's about your actual appearance.

The lead scientists, Drew Walker and Edward Vul, wrote that people's faces tend to "average out" in a group, making an individual's overall look less unique than it otherwise would be. Perfect 5s.

Which doesn't necessarily sound like a good thing. But it is.

According to this research, social averaging really is the key to looking good in public settings.

Walker explains in the study that, "Average faces are more attractive, likely due to the averaging out of unattractive idiosyncrasies. Perhaps it's like Tolstoy's families: Beautiful people are all alike, but every unattractive person is unattractive in their own way."

Basically, they surmise that while hanging out in a group doesn't necessarily accentuate your supposed good qualities, it does, however, minimize your less attractive features.

So that weird Richard Nixon-shaped birthmark on your cheek... pfft, like it's not even there!

In fact, the findings showed that people in groups were rated 5.5% more attractive than when viewed on their own. Which doesn't sound like much. But it's something.

To actually test this Cheerleader Effect theory, five experiments were done with over 130 undergraduate students who were shown pictures of 100 people. They were then asked to rate their attractiveness. Some of the people in the pictures were cropped alone, and in other photos they were a part of a group.

Ultimately, both women and men were found to be more attractive in the group shots.

Of course, once you couple off away from the group, you're on your own and the truth comes out.

"Is that ... Richard Nixon?"

So, there's definitely some merit to the idea of a wingman, or a wingwoman. And the more of them you have, the better.

Let's go bris crashing!

Follow @JarrettBellini on Twitter.

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