The Ugly Truth: Unattractive Friends Make You Look Better, Study Says

The Ugly Truth: Unattractive Friends Make You Look Better, Study Says

A myth we all pretty much believed in has been proven correct. Hanging with someone less attractive will make you look more attractive by default. When it comes to attracting a partner, it appears the company you keep can make all the difference.

A new study has shown the ‘ugly friend effect’ – where surrounding yourself with people who are less attractive than you can make you appear better looking than you really are – is real.

Researchers discovered that volunteers would rank a person – male or female – as better looking when they were alongside less attractive people than they would be when judged alone. The findings confirm a long-held belief that having ugly friends can boast your chances of attracting a someone on a night out.

On the flip side, enhancing your appeal also included surrounding yourself with really attractive people.

Anthony Little, a psychologist at Stirling University, said: ‘If you were just looking at rapper 50 cent’s physical attractiveness you might not be that impressed with him.

‘But as soon as you see him with beautiful women you might infer other traits, for instance, you might infer he is a multi-millionaire or charming or witty.

‘He somehow becomes more attractive.’ The effect extends to the animal kingdom. When researchers placed toy female grouse near a male bird, other hens flocked to be near him but the findings also suggest that the effect only works if you are the only attractive member of a group.

When two or more attractive people are viewed alongside those who are not so good looking, it causes onlookers to be more critical of their appearance.

Dr Nicholas Furl, a psychologist at Royal Holloway University of London who led the new study, said: ‘Rightly or wrongly, the way people look has a profound impact on the way others perceive them.

‘We live in a society obsessed with beauty and attractiveness, but how we measure and understand these concepts is still a grey area.

‘The presence of a less attractive face does not just increase the attractiveness of a single person, but in a crowd could actually make us even more choosey.

‘We found that the presence of a ‘distractor’ face makes differences between attractive people more obvious and that observers start to pull apart these differences, making them even more particular in their judgement.’

The study, which is published in the journal Psychological Science, asked a group of participants to rate pictures of different male and female faces for attractiveness one at a time.

They were then asked to assess the same faces but this time surrounded by ‘undesirable’ faces. These ‘distractor faces’, as the researchers describe them, caused the original faces the participants looked at to seem more attractive.

Participants were then shown two attractive faces, alongside a ‘distractor’ face and asked to judge between them.The presence of the less attractive face was found to make the viewers more critical between the two attractive faces. Dr Furl said: ‘It’s perhaps not too surprising that we are judged in relation to those around us.

This is a trope often seen in teen movies and romantic comedies, where a character associates themselves with a less attractive friend to elevate their own dating stakes.

‘There are many other ways in which we decide who we are attracted to.

‘There will certainly be more research in years to come on this complicated area of human interaction, and I am excited to see where this research takes us.’

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