The dissociable influence of social context on judgements of facial attractiveness and trustworthiness

Daniel J. Carragher, Nicole A. Thomas, Michael E.R. Nicholls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The cheerleader effect occurs when the same face is rated to be more attractive when it is seen in a group compared to when seen alone. We investigated whether this phenomenon also occurs for trustworthiness judgements, and examined how these effects are influenced by the characteristics of the individual being evaluated and those of the group they are seen in. Across three experiments, we reliably replicated the cheerleader effect. Most faces became more attractive in a group. Yet, the size of the cheerleader effect that each face experienced was not related to its own attractiveness, nor to the attractiveness of the group or the group’s digitally averaged face. We discuss the implications of our findings for the hierarchical encoding and contrast mechanisms that have previously been used to explain the cheerleader effect. Surprisingly, judgements of facial trustworthiness did not experience a ‘cheerleader effect’. Instead, we found that untrustworthy faces became significantly more trustworthy in all groups, while there was no change for faces that were already trustworthy alone. Taken together, our results demonstrate that social context can have a dissociable influence on our first impressions, depending on the trait being evaluated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)902-933
Number of pages32
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • contrast effect
  • hierarchical encoding
  • social inference
  • social perception
  • the cheerleader effect


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