03/11/2014 06:41 pm ET Updated May 11, 2014

The Irrational Choice: Online Dating Photos and The Cheerleader Effect

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Creating an online dating profile is a daunting task for even the savviest daters. Although words certainly matter, profile pictures are the most critical element in determining whether or not an individual receives an online dating message. Nevertheless, the do's and don'ts of selecting a profile picture may not necessarily be intuitive.

To date, many experts have claimed that online dating pictures should only feature the online dater. Experts claimed that there was no need to visually introduce prospective dates to your best friend Jen or your Aunt Esther before your first date. The suggestion of just featuring oneself actually makes a lot of sense. By including multiple individuals in your profile photos, you may be including individuals who are both objectively and subjectively more attractive to prospective dates. Opening yourself up to increased competition does not seem like a rational choice. A recent study, however, indicates that the rational choice may not necessarily be the right choice.

According to psychologists at University of California San Diego, an individual's perceived attractiveness may vary depending upon whether an individual is examined by themselves or in a group. The study indicates that the cheerleader effect, as popularly featured in "How I Met Your Mother," may be alive and well. The cheerleader effect suggests that an individual is perceived as more attractive when featured in a group than alone.

One may be the loneliest number or, in this case, the lowest attractiveness score for individuals featured by themselves. According to the study, individual faces are considered more attractive when featured in a group than in isolation because they are perceived as being more comparable to the average group face. Being perceived as more comparable to the average group face is critical, because the average group face is generally more attractive than the faces of the individual members.

While most cheerleaders, with the exception of NCAA cheerleaders, are women, the cheerleader effect applies to both men and women. Although you may find it irrational to include your attractive friends in your online dating profiles, take a walk on the wild side and wait for the cheerleader effect to take effect. Remember, digital wingmen and wingwomen do in fact exist