The Cheerleader Effect is the way in which, when confronted with a group of items, the human brain automatically treats them as a set and forms an impression of this set as a whole without really taking in to account the individual characteristics of each item. We generate average information on everything we are viewing – including setting, size, emotions conveyed (in animate objects) and attractiveness – and then make a visual judgement based on these averages. Therefore, those items that may be less attractive or desirable find that they are elevated in status to the average that has already been accepted.
This is called the Cheerleader Effect as it is something most notably perceived in the way that people are considered more attractive when they are in a group than when they are seen alone (i. e. the way that cheerleaders are all considered to be highly attractive even though each individual may not be seen in that way were they on their own). Walker and Vul conducted a series of studies on this in 2013 by presenting participants with photographs of the same faces twice, once in a group setting and once alone, and found that in every case their attractiveness level was rated higher in the group photos. This is due to the way our visual system makes sense of seeing multiple items: by choosing the most positive features from all and combining them to make one easy-to-digest ensemble.
The applications for this can be vast as it is something that happens in our brains automatically with both animate and inanimate objects and is very hard for us to override even when we’re aware of it. In web marketing, it can be far more effective to present your products in a group to elevate the general appeal of each individual item as the viewer will average out their qualities – rather than concentrating on features they don’t like – to find an appealing mass of offerings. This can be the same for presenting customer testimonials. If you present your testimonials in a group setting then the less positive reviews will be averaged out with the better ones so as not to leave an overall negative impression on your website’s visitor.