The Halo Effect

Psychology

When we’re kids, we learn that what’s beautiful is good and what’s ugly is bad. Cinderella, Prince Charming, Beauty and the Beast teach us that physical appearance and being kind/compassionate/smart go hand in hand. Every day we make judgments on other people based on looks, and vice versa. First impressions affect how we view the other person, especially knowing how humans are creatures of habit- we don’t enjoy being wrong. If my first impression of you is that you’re cool, I’ll subconsciously look for positive cues to prove my theory and dismiss the ones that tell me you’re a jerk. But I digress…

The halo effect is the tendency to make general assumptions about people based on appearance traits. Said in a slightly freaky way, I assume you’re friendly because of your face.

On average, we live for 78.3 years, most of us remember people after the age of 5 and communicate with 3 new people every day. So all those years (leap years included. Pet peeve of mine, when people completely dismiss the existence of leap years. They never did anything wrong for you to treat them like that!!!) and all those people, would equal 80000 people, enough to entirely fill the London Olympics stadium. Could I’ve found a more contemporary comparison, yes, would it make that much of a difference, no.

Also, did you know that the human brain is incapable of creating new faces, so that stunning girl in your dream last night? You didn’t make her up, you saw her somewhere, hopefully, at your favorite bar, realistically, on Instagram.

Shout out to Thorndike btw, who published A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings and was the one who discovered that a negative perception of ONE trait usually took ALL the others down with it.

So I showed people 4 photos, of two men and two women, where a couple was considered attractive and the other one wasn’t, at all.

I KNOW BEAUTY IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT, BUT RESEARCH HAS TO BE DONE, OKAY? *insert iconic tweet*

I won’t include the photos cuz that’s how I roll. 50 people had to rate them from 1 to 5 for their intelligence, kindness, honesty, and success.

And I mean, it makes sense ~cognitively~, it’s cost-effective time wise. You have the luxury to “know” the other person based on a simple overview and comparison to other people you know that look like them.

Well, the results are in. Apparently, the handsome guy was deemed the most trustworthy, then the other guy, then the chicas *cough fuck that shit cough*. The most intelligent were the not-so-handsome guy, the pretty girl, not-so-handsome guy and the not-so-pretty girl.

The most sincere? The pretty girl, then the not-so-handsome guy, handsome guy, and not-so-pretty girl. The pretty girl was also thought of as the most successful, again the not-so-pretty girl at the other side of the spectrum portrayed as the least successful. Same with self-confidence, where the pretty girl was the most self-confident one and not-so-pretty girl as the least confident.

Pretty when you cry. JK I never found out what that means, but I mean, these flowers are dying and they’re just standing here, oblivious, shining, LIVING.

As you might’ve already guessed, it’s worse for women. I mean, imagine, the pretty girl and the not-so-handsome guy have the same mode. However, the pretty girl took home 2 out of 5 positive qualities, and no one rated her as unintelligent so that’s cool.

By the way, I researched this with three other people and there’s even a cute/awkward video to prove it. Those were the days…when I actually emailed the study to the professor with a smiley face as the subject line and said, and I quote, GIRLS FTW, in the conclusions and I still got a perfect score #unreal

But yeah, the not-so-attractive group was thought of as less successful, less kind, less trustworthy, less this, less that.

What can you do? Realize the payoff that comes with being attractive. Stop judging people on looks. If you’re on the not-so group, remember, those that mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind mic drop

Thank you for reading.

 

References

Asch, S. E. (1946) Forming impressions of personality, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 41, 258-290

Atkinson, C. The link between physical attractiveness and likeability.

Bargh, J. A., and Pietromonaco, P. (1982). Automatic information processing and social perception: the influence of trait information presented outside of conscious awareness on impression formation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 437–449

Goldman, William, and Philip Lewis. Beautiful is good: Evidence that the physically attractive are more socially skillful." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 13.2 (1977): 125-130.

Grcic, J. (2008). The halo effect fallacy. Electronic Journal for Philosophy, 2008, 1-6. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 35(4), Apr 1977, 250-256.

Regan, D. T. (1971). Effects of a favor and liking on compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7,627-639.

Rosenzweig, P. (2007). The halo effect, and other managerial delusions. McKinsey Quarterly, 1, 76.

Rosenzweig, P. (2014). The halo effect:… and the eight other business delusions that deceive managers. Simon and Schuster. The halo effect: Evidence for unconscious alteration of judgments.

Thorndike, E. L. (1920). A constant error in psychological ratings. Journal of applied psychology, 4(1), 25-29.

Thorndike, E. L. (1920). A constant error in psychological ratings. Journal of Applied Psychology, 4, 469-477.

Timothy Coombs, W., & Holladay, S. J. (2006). Unpacking the halo effect: reputation and crisis management. Journal of Communication Management, 10(2), 123-137.

Toi, M. and Batson, C. D. (1972). More evidence that empathy is a source of altruistic motivation, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 281-292.

Udry, J. Richard, and Bruce K. Eckland. Benefits of being attractive: Differential payoffs for men and women. Psychological Reports 54.1 (1984): 47-56.