The “cheerleader effect” in facial and bodily attractiveness: a result of memory bias and not perceptual encoding

Jean Y. J. Hsieh*, O. Scott Gwinn, Kevin R. Brooks, Ian D. Stephen, Daniel J. Carragher, Michael E. R. Nicholls

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Individual faces are rated as more attractive when presented in a group compared with when presented individually; a finding dubbed the “cheerleader effect.” As a relatively recent discovery, the conditions necessary to observe the effect are not clearly understood. We sought to better define these conditions by examining two parameters associated with the effect. Our first aim was to determine whether the effect is specific to faces or occurs also for human bodies. Both face and body images were rated as being more attractive when presented in groups than when presented in isolation, demonstrating that the cheerleader effect is not restricted to faces. Furthermore, the effect was significantly larger for bodies than faces. Our second aim was to determine whether the cheerleader effect originates from a bias in memory or occurs during perceptual encoding. Participants in the “memory” condition provided attractiveness ratings after images had been removed from the testing screen, whereas participants in the “perceptual” condition provided ratings while the images remained visible, thereby eliminating the memory components of the paradigm. Significant cheerleader effects were only observed in the memory condition. We conclude that the cheerleader effect for faces and bodies is due to a bias in memory and does not occur at an initial stage of perceptual encoding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)972-980
Number of pages9
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was funded by College of Education, Psychology, and Social Work, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia.

Publisher Copyright:
© Experimental Psychology Society 2020.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • cheerleader effect
  • body perception
  • memory bias
  • attractiveness
  • perceptual encoding


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