Why Being Around Attractive People Makes You Look Hotter

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Why The Cheerleader Effect Makes People More Attractive In Groups

Neil Patrick Harris's character, Barney Stinson, on "How I Met Your Mother" called it "The Cheerleader Effect" — the effect of looking better when standing with a group of extremely hot friends.

And though we'd like to believe that Barney only said this because he's well... Barney, the Cheerleader Effect is actually a real thing. And it relates directly to how our brains work.

What is the Cheerleader Effect?

The Cheerleader Effect is a visual illusion that proves what we see isn't always a direct reflection of what's right in front of us. According to a 2013 study from the University of California, led by researchers Drew Walker and Edward Vul, our brains average out the faces in a group, making everyone appear more attractive.

Obviously, cheerleaders are typically attractive on their own, but in a group, their attractiveness quotient rises.

So much for the old theory that super-good looking people should be around not-so-good-looking people to appear more attractive.

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Why does being around attractive people make you more attractive, too?

Whenever we look at a set of objects like a group of people, our visual system (without us being conscious of it) gathers general information about the entire set, including average size of group members, their average location, and even the average expression on their faces.

Because of this, rather than seeing each individual in a group on their own, we are more likely to see these individuals as more like a group.

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If you're with an attractive group of people, your facial flaws or unique characteristics average out in a group of faces, and you're seen as less-flawed.

As our brains are computing that information, we come up with an average, and people of all cultures generally find average faces attractive.

Well, who knew that looking "average" could actually make you appear much more attractive? It's a phenomenon that might one day replace makeup, no?

Walker explained, "Average faces are more attractive, likely due to the averaging out of unattractive idiosyncrasies."

In other words, to look even hotter, hang out with friends who have the opposite facial characteristics than you.

Walker and Vul went on to clarify, adding, "One person with narrow eyes and one person with wide eyes, for example, would enjoy a greater boost in perceived attractiveness when seen together, as compared to groups comprised of individuals who have similar features."

So there you have it. Being in a group can help your perceived attractiveness. Knowing this, you might want to gather all your attractive friends and glue them to your side on a night out.

Because once you've distanced yourself from the pack, you're on your own as far as holding up your hotness goes.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or her Instagram.