Attractiveness and “Social Loafing”


Scientist have found that attractive people will congregate with other attractive people.  A new study in the journal PLOS ONE revealed that people group with others of similar attractiveness and attractive women tend to be placed in the middle of the group.

The researchers from the University of Otago used a large stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand.  They transformed the stadium into a psychology lab by using high-definition sports cameras to track the movements of 172 people inside the 6,460 square foot space.  

The participants were asked to simply walk around and mingle.  This made the sports cameras a perfect fit to track such a high number of moving parts and subjects.

Each participant was photographed separately before they were allowed into the stadium.  Their attractiveness was rated by all three members of the research team.  The average score was used as their single attractiveness score.

Besides being asked to walk about and interact as they would normally, they were asked to form groups of any number and composition several times.  When they felt like a group had formed, they were asked to raise their hands.

Groups of six were the most common and the groups were comprised of people with roughly the same attractiveness score.  Attractive women most commonly were found in the middle of the these groups.

“Women and attractive individuals were also more likely than men and unattractive individuals to be in the center of their groups,” Jamin Halberstadt, a professor of psychology at the University of Otago and the study’s lead author, said in a statement.  “Our analysis could not confirm whether this was because they acted as ‘social attractors,’ although this is the likely explanation – as we didn’t find evidence that they were jumping into the middle of the group as it formed.”


The researchers also staged hunter-gatherer tasks for the groups.  They asked the groups to find 500 tiny metal washers scattered around the stadium.  They found that the people who integrated into the groups early were less likely to put effort into the tasks.  The researchers attribute this to “social loafing.”  Social loafing is essentially the hope that someone you briefly met will pick up your slack.

Beyond pretty people grouping and lazy people, ensuring their laziness, this study was the first to use cutting-edge observational technology without interfering with the subjects, which is actually quite difficult to accomplish.

“We’ve now found a happy medium by using a stadium-size laboratory and applying unobtrusive state-of-the-art tracking technology to participants’ social behavior,” Halberstadt added.

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