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People Are Perceived as More Attractive in Groups

Update Date: Oct 29, 2013 10:04 PM EDT

Hanging out in a group rather than flying solo may make you appear more attractive than you are to others according to a new study. 

"Average faces are more attractive, likely due to the averaging out of unattractive idiosyncrasies," Drew Walker, a psychological scientist from the University of California, San Diego, said in a news release. "Perhaps it's like Tolstoy's families: Beautiful people are all alike, but every unattractive person is unattractive in their own way."

According to Walker and psychological scientist Edward Vul, from UCSD, when looking at people's faces in a group people perceive a person's face as more average than if they were seen alone.

For the study, researchers had participants look at pictures of 100 people and were told to rate their level of attractiveness. The individual being rated would appear in a group picture for some and alone in another picture. 

"Overall, participants rated both female and male subjects as more attractive in the group shot than when pictured alone," reported the Association for Psychological Science. "Being seen in a group confers an attractiveness benefit that's roughly enough to bump someone from the 49th percentile to the 51st percentile of attractiveness."

Vul jokingly said, "The effect is definitely small, but some of us need all the help we can get."

Researchers also discovered that the pictures of the one person being rated did not have to necessarily be in a group setting, even when they were shown in a collage of 4-16 pictures that made a "group" the picture of the individual was still rated higher than if they were pictured alone. 

"If the average is more attractive because unattractive idiosyncrasies tend to be averaged out, then individuals 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, as compared to groups comprised of individuals who have more similar features," said Vul and Walker. 

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.

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