The Halo Effect: 10 Tricks To Successfully Manage It

The Halo Effect is a phenomenon to which we attribute personality characteristics based solely on the attractiveness of the person. In other words, the handsome man will be considered nicer or more intelligent.

It’s a phenomenon that occurs without you realizing it, and it can have a significant affect in society; from the partner you chose, to your schooling, marketing, and even judicial processes.

Do you think you’re able to avoid the Halo Effect? Do you think you’re totally free in your judgements? Neuropsychologist Cristina Martinez de Toda invites you to reflect in this article.

Halo effect

Halo effect

What is the Halo Effect? In order to understand the Halo Effect, you could think about it like a shortcut that parts of your brain use to judge a person. You evaluate and judge a person or product based off one quality or attribute, and extrapolate the rest of their personal characteristics from the one quality. This often times has no relation to the reality of the person or product’s true characteristics.

Knowing and understanding this psychological phenomenon will help us as humans be freer and more exact in our judgement, and help us shy away from cognitive biases.

The Halo Effect was first defined by Thorndike in the 1920s. Thorndike coined this term after conducting various experiments with the Army.

The phenomenon doesn’t happen because we are stupid or gullible, it happens because the brain tries to save energy by simplifying perceptive processes. This shortcut can be helpful in some cases, and can make us cause some significant judgement in many other cases, as is with the Halo Effect.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” -Oscar Wilde

Examples of the Halo Effect

The Halo Effect could have a devastating effect on the first impressions or expectations that we have of other people.

An recent example of the Halo Effect happened when the singer Susan Boyle appeared on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent.

If you’ve already seen the video, think about the first impression that she gave you.

If you haven’t seen it yet, Put your Halo Effect resistance to the test.

Susan didn’t initially catch the audience’s eye when she walked on stage. She didn’t come off as the typical beautiful, charismatic, and confident singer, but when she opened her mouth to sing, everyone was amazed.
Both the audience and the judges had made up their mind about Susan from the moment she walked on stage. No one was expecting her to be talented, but she ended up leaving thousands of people in awe after her performance. For Martinez de Toda, this is the best example that sums up the Hale Effect, and how it effects us as humans.

What did you think when Susan Boyle first walked on stage? Were you able to look past her physical aspect, or did yo get by without judging her at all?

The Halo Effect and Marketing

The Halo Effect isn’t only limited to people- it can also be applied to “necessary” objects. This is why so many brands hope to find a celebrity to advertise and where/use their products. Have you ever wondered why George Clooney is selling a coffee maker, or why Eva Longoria is in cosmetic advertisements? Well, the company’s team of publicists, psychologists, and marketing now how to make the Halo Effect work for them.

Choosing an attractive, charismatic, and kind person is a safe bet for marketing companies who know that many people will go buy the coffee maker that George Clooney is selling.

How does caffeine affect your brain?

The Halo Effect in job interviews

The Halo Effect plays a huge role in job interviews. You’ve probably heard of the typical horror story of someone who didn’t get the job because they spilled coffee on themselves on the way to the interview and showed up with a coffee stained blouse. The reverse also happens. How did that guy from your class get the job if he hardly made it through school? Many traditionally attractive people have gotten jobs that they may not be qualified for because of their looks.

Below you will see how to make the Halo Effect work to your benefit in a job interview.

Devil Effect or Reverse Halo Effect

What is the Devil Effect? There is no light without dark. Unlike the Halo Effect that gives a positive feeling or judgement, the Devil Effect is when, due to a single characteristic or quality, a person or objects is judged negatively, and negative attributes or characteristics are assumed.

The Devil Effect has a significant impact on politics as well. When you’ve formed a negative opinion on a specific politician, it’s harder to accept the benefits or positive things that they may have done.

Recommendations to keep yourself from being manipulated by the Halo Effect

1. Be conscious of your judgement

The first step to putting a stop to the Halo Effect is to be conscious of when you’re wrongfully judging someone, but the problem with the Halo Effect is that we’re rarely aware that it’s happening. If you can learn how to make an educated judgement of a person or object without letting your own brain manipulate you, you’ll be able to make more accurate judgement.

Example of the Halo Effect: When you see an overweight person, you might also automatically attribute them with other negative characteristics. “How could you get that big?” “They must be lazy”… It’s ugly and you don’t necessarily do it on purpose, but you making suppositions based off of a primary glance of someone is what the Halo Effect is capable of doing.

2. Give your first impressions a second chance

It’s almost impossible to keep yourself from making a first impression of a someone you’ve just met, but try to be critical of the first impression that you get. Try to back up your feelings toward someone with a real data. If you have a hard time finding a reason why you like or dislike someone, give them a second chance.

3. You’re also prejudged. Reflect

If you’re lucky, you also produce the Halo Effect. If you’re not so lucky, you might fall victim to the Devil Effect. Take some time to reflect on the image that you project, because it’s easier to see the fault in others before you see your own faults.

Example of the Halo Effect: Ask someone you know well what their first impression of you was, and reflect on their response.

4. Take care of yourself

Leaving weight, looks, height, etc. aside, it’s important to help create a positive Halo Effect by having healthy personal hygiene. Greasy hair, bad body odor, and dirty nails are certainly not going to help you make a good first impression.

It probably sounds obvious, but you’ll be surprised at how many people are able to go to a job interview with a dirty shirt or greasy hair.

5. Smiling boots the Halo Effect

A smile projects kindness, empathy, and sympathy. Studies have shown that when you smile, you produce a cause-effect phenomenon: The other person smiles too.

You’re likely to like someone who smiles if it’s a real, honest smile. Try to stay away from a Joker-type smile that’s completely forced. It’ll do you more harm than good and you’ll come off as fake and unlikable.

Halo effect

Halo effect

6. Be coherent

Coherence, or being loyal to your morals, code of ethics, likes, and hobbies, is essential for boosting the Halo Effect. You’re coherent when you say what you think and you do what you say you’ll do. If you project an incoherent image, your Halo Effect will be noticeably reduced, because the other person will see a cheater or liar, and you might end up being judged by the Devil Effect.

Example of the Halo Effect: When a politician says in their campaign that the will raise the minimum wage, but when they get to office the wage is reduced, not raised.

7. Be aware of your non-verbal language

More than 70% of what the other person perceives comes from non-verbal language. The way you move, your tone of voice, looking the person in the eyes or shying away, nodding, and other small body language cues give off much more than you might think.

8. Ask yourself questions

Question yourself. Every time you pass a judgement about a person or object, ask yourself honestly if the answer would be different if its image was different.

9. Avoid negative (and positive) generalizations

Don’t let yourself get carried away by other people’s opinions. Ty to only think about the recommendations that come from people who really know what they’re talking about. If they have some kind of authority over a given subject, take their advice into consideration when making a decision. If they don’t know what they’re talking about, don’t take their word as fact.

Example of the Halo Effect: “No one has been talking to that new girl, so why would I?”

10. Learn how to use your intuition well

Finally, the most important thing in life is balance. After reading this article, don’t doubt yourself and your intuitions, because they might be right! Can you imagine the amount of friends you’ve missed out on, of the places you’ve never seen, or the things you haven’t tried, just because of a first impression?


Do you have any questions? Leave me a question below 🙂

This article was originally written in Spanish by Cristina Martinez de Toda

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