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The Cheerleader Effect Is Real, According To Scientists

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“The Cheerleader Effect (aka the Bridesmaid Paradox, Sorority Girl Syndrome, and for a brief window in the mid-90s, the Spice Girls Conspiracy) it’s when women appear hot but only as a group, not individually. The minute you start pulling them out of the group, their flaws are too horrible to ignore.” – Barney Stinson

Now, I don’t usually go to the Barney Stinson Institute For Sociological Research for my scientific developments, but apparently he got one right on HIMYM awhile ago: “The Cheerleader Effect” is real. Now, before you go out and try and figure out if the girl you’re currently pursuing is only cute because she is never seen outside photos of her and her ten best friends or large groups of girls on campus, pump the breaks. The findings of the study in the article are from two researchers at University of California, so they’re probably operating with a much different sample group than the rest of the country, right?

On the heels of several other related studies, they discovered that our tendency to group like things together and average them when we see an image also tends to make a group of moderately attractive people look more attractive, thanks to our brain basically “averaging” their hotness. It’s like our brain gets beer goggles, but only when trying to process groups of potential mates, and when it’s soaked in beer.

On some level, the hotness of your average NFL cheerleading squad is a visual illusion. All the members of the group seem more attractive, because our brains find composite facial structures more attractive. The article goes in depth on various kinds of illusions and how they play into this whole phenomenon, but I’ll pull out the cliff notes for people who don’t want the whole cognitive psychology explanation:

The human brain likes to play tricks on us and sometimes those tricks involve perceiving illusions that could cause you to take home the grenade of a group of girls, or the creepy dude in a group of guys, because it decided the group made them look better. Thanks a lot, brain. You dick.

Editor’s Note: ^Those girls are actually all pretty hot, and that’s coming from a jealous, bitter girl. -Hot Piece

[via Scientific American, HIMYM Wiki]


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Scientist, internet comedian, future supervillain. I still refuse to believe I've graduated college.

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