The Cheerleader Effect: Why You Should Include Group Photos on Your Profile

online dating tipsWhen I tell people I am a researcher at eHarmony, most people want to know the same things and will ask me similar questions. One of the more common ones I get is about creating a dating profile: what they should write about themselves, what to exclude, and what kind of photos of themselves to put up. Pictures are a very important aspect of your profile. Your chances of receiving communication from someone increase drastically for every picture you put up. But what kinds of photos should you put up?

Recent research from the University of California, San Diego suggests you should post a few group pictures into your profile. The research examined a phenomenon which shows people are rated as more attractive when in a group rather than alone, which has been known as the “Cheerleader Effect.”  In this study, individuals were asked to rate the attractiveness of others of the opposite sex, which included pictures of people alone or in a group. Each of the faces from the group photos were cropped and shown individually in random order, so each person was rated twice. They found that both male and female faces were rated as more attractive when in a group rather than individually.

But what about being in a group makes others think we’re more attractive? According to the researchers, it’s all about how we perceive and rate others. When we see a group of faces, our visual system automatically creates an average representation of all the faces in the group. When we rate each individual, our minds bias our ratings of each individual to be closer to the average of the faces rather than just each face alone.

A great way to illustrate this is the Ebbinghaus Illusion. A dot is surrounded by either larger dots or smaller dots. When we look at them side-by-side, the dot surrounded by larger dots looks smaller than the dot surrounded by smaller dots. Our minds are grouping together characteristics of the groups, and because of the averaging that is taking place, one dot looks smaller than the other even though they are the same size.

So, in essence, our judgment is tricked by our own minds, thinking individuals are more like the average of the group. But why does that make each person more attractive? Previous research has also shown that individual faces that were averaged together to come up with a composite face were found to be more attractive than almost all individual faces.

Now this doesn’t mean you should only post pictures of yourself in a group. Most daters don’t like playing what feels like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ when perusing your pics, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a few photos of you in a group on your profile. It can show your potential dates that you’re a social person or reveal some other contextual information that you may have in common.

Need more advice on picking out great photos for your profile?  You can read more on our blog:

Men: Think Twice Before Saying Cheese

Why Your Online Dating Profile Photos May Be Hurting Your Chances

What Barbra Streisand Can Teach Us About Choosing Profile Pictures

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