Grouping perceptual information has a distinct evolutionary advantage, enhancing survival by reducing perceptual load (the burden of interpreting a scene from visual information).
This perceptual effect is best demonstrated with the Ebbinghaus Illusion.
In this illusion, the inside circles are identical in size, yet the surrounding information (i.e., surrounding circles) alters our perception.
Here, rather than focusing on the individual characteristics of the inside circles, our perception is altered by the group information.
Instead of devoting significant attention to all individual characteristics, our brain quickly summarises the information as a group.
Evidence even suggests that our brains may be wired for such categorisation.
This is known as top-down processing, where the whole element is perceived before individual characteristics.
Well, you can apply this information when selecting a profile picture.Evita March does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.Victoria State Government provides funding as a strategic partner of The Conversation AU.In 2003, scientific evidence of the cheerleader effect was published in a paper where across five studies, both males and females were rated more attractive when presented as part of a group photo compared to a solo photo.The authors, Drew Walker and Edward Vul, presented 130 participants with group photographs containing three female faces or three male faces.The same characteristics of this illusion extend to the cheerleader effect.In this effect, rather than attend to individual characteristics, we focus on the group as a whole.First popularised by the television series How I Met Your Mother, the character Barney Stinson uses the term cheerleader effect to describe a woman appearing attractive when in a group, but not as an individual.His interpretation was typical of American sitcoms, but Barney’s comments are founded in research.Each face was then cropped from the photograph and presented individually.Participants rated the attractiveness of faces presented in a group and individually.