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.

Fuck weightloss

BoPo

There I am. Bikini waxing*, knowing what Beyonce was on about when she said pretty hurts. What hurts more are society's expectations about women's body hair, to the point where women in razor commercials are already completely hairless, but I digress.

In an attempt to ease my pain, the esthetician tries to distract me with small talk and surprisingly, it's working. Then she happily states I've lost some weight eh? I freeze for a nanosecond, say "yeah". A similar exchange's been happening quite a few times recently and you usually wonder, but you're there, naked and vulnerable and all, you might as well go deeper while you're at it (no pun intended). Why do people assume I should be happy I've lost weight? I never told my esthetician- or anyone else for that matter- that I wanted to lose weight. So? I'm not obese, so it can't really be a health related concern.

Since we're at it, that's actually a common misconception. You know what they say- and with they, I mean stat professors all around the world, all day, every day- correlation doesn't imply causation.

Because some overweight people are unhealthy that doesn't mean being overweight equals bad health.

Shocking, I know. People who are overweight have a fifty-fifty chance of having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or elevated blood sugar levels.¹

This other study that examined data from 43,265 people for a duration of 24 years, found that nearly half of the obese participants qualified as "metabolically fit", they didn’t suffer from insulin resistance, diabetes, low levels of good cholesterol, high triglycerides or high blood pressure.²

In other words, healthy.

Hear this one out: among people already diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, those who were obese lived longer than their thinner peers.³ Or this one,

65,000 patients with heart disease and found that overweight and obese people had the lowest risk of early death, compared with normal-weight or underweight patients;

those who were underweight had the highest death risk.⑷ Also, doctors having less respect for patients with higher body-mass indexes can lower the quality of care those patients receive. This article is a must read.

Anywayyyy, can we all agree now that weight isn't in and of itself a marker of health?

I feel like I need a ~disclaimer~. Please do your own research and don't take my word (and 65000+43,265 participants' results) for it. Maybe I've been fooled. I try my best for everything I state to be highly researched and from trustworthy sources, but I'm only human, after allll, I'm only human...

So my esthetician thinks weight loss is inherently a good thing, no big deal. It is a big deal, though ~plot twist~.

A report by the American Association of University Women indicated that for girls, “the way I look” is the most important indicator of self-worth .6

What the hell?  Research showed how more than half of girls and one-third of boys as young as 6 to 8 think their ideal weight is thinner than their current size. By age 7, one in four kids has engaged in some kind of dieting behavior.

Age 15 to 17, more than 90 percent of girls want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance, with body weight ranking the highest.

I repeat, what the hell? Girls as young as 6 worrying about their physique should be a big deal. With so many young girls developing eating disorders and having fucked up relationships with food and their bodies, it is. I walked here, I'm surrounded by plants- they smell like spring, I'm enjoying the sunshine on my face, the warmth of my laptop keyboard from said sunshine, a cup of coffee (and the fact that the waiter remembered how I take it), the birds are singing.

I walked here, I'm surrounded by plants- they smell like spring, I'm enjoying the sunshine on my face, the warmth of my laptop keyboard from said sunshine, a cup of coffee (and the fact that the waiter remembered how I take it), the birds are singing. My senses work, my legs work, my fine motor skills are fine AF... To me, that's proof my body loves me and it's doing the best it can to keep me here, while I enjoy the little and big things this world has to offer. Start a revolution: love your body. It's been in love with you for so long and always will be.

Thanks for reading.

*A literal pain in the ass

**Editing this, I realize it sounds slightly ableist. I'm not saying your body doesn't love you if you can't walk, I'm just trying to put things in perspective in regard to body image issues. Still sounds ableist. Can you just take my word for it, that I stand up to all kinds of ableism and ableist slurs IRL & try to educate as many people as humanly possible, in a country where most don't  know what the word means? You're still fine AF, regardless of your motor skills!

¹R.P. Wildman, Ph.D.; P. Muntner, Ph.D.; K. Reynolds, Ph.D.; A. P. McGinn, Ph.D.; S. Rajpathak, MD, DrPH; Ju. Wylie-Rosett, EdD; M. R. Sowers, Ph.D.; "The Obese Without Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Clustering and the Normal Weight With Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Clustering." Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(15):1617-1624.

²Ortega FB, Lee D, Katzmarzyk PT, et al. The intriguing metabolically healthy but obese phenotype: cardiovascular prognosis and role of fitness. European Heart Journal. Published online September 4, 2012.

³Florez H, Castillo-Florez S. Beyond the Obesity Paradox in DiabetesFitness, Fatness, and Mortality. JAMA. 2012;308(6):619-620. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.9776

4Oskar Angerås, Per Albertsson, Kristjan Karason, Truls Råmunddal, Göran Matejka, Stefan James, Bo Lagerqvist, Annika Rosengren, Elmir Omerovic; Evidence for the obesity paradox in patients with acute coronary syndromes: a report from the Swedish Coronary Angiography and Angioplasty Registry. Eur Heart J 2013; 34 (5): 345-353. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehs217

5J Gen Intern Med. 2009 Nov;24(11):1236-9. doi: 10.1007/s11606-009-1104-8. Epub 2009 Sep 18.

6How schools shortchange girls: The AAUW report. A study of major findings in education. Washington, DC: American Association of University Women Educational Foundation.

Drawing of a galaxy jar with a tag attached with the above words] by Rachele Cateyes
Drawing of a galaxy jar with a tag attached with the above words] by Rachele Cateyes