The Halo Effect

halo-effect

The Halo Effect is a social phenomenon where perception of one trait or behavior of a person influences judgment of other, unrelated traits. In interpersonal relationships it takes the form of perceiving one aspect of a person as “good”, then later judging other characteristics and possibly even their entire being as good.

It also commonly takes the opposite form: if a person’s behavior or traits in one area are perceived as “bad”, then they are seen as bad in other areas, if not an overall bad person. In this case it is known as the Reverse Halo Effect.

The Halo Effect can be seen in everyday life, yet most people don’t recognize it even when it is pointed out to them.ย  The Halo Effect is used in cases where something is known about a person but other traits are not — people generalize their perception of this one characteristic to other traits.

It is also thought that the Halo Effect arises to avoid cognitive dissonance. People have a difficult time holding the idea of someone as good in one area, and bad in another, or vice versa. To create a consistent impression and relieve this pressure they simply see the person as all bad or all good.

Physical Attractiveness

A common example of The Halo Effect is the perception of physically attractive people as good, virtuous, or intelligent. People who are judged by others as physically appealing are generally given other positive attributes and more leeway than people who are judged to be average or below average in appearance.

It has been shown that people judge their partners as more attractive than others rate their partners. But people also rate their partners as kinder and smarter than others rate them, and kinder and smarter (and more physically attractive) than people they aren’t intimately involved with.

This might seem to be harmless or positive, but partners’ are unable to see each other objectively. Worse, when the Reverse Halo Effect occurs with one’s partner, relationships hit a dead-end due to negative evaluations on both sides.

barack-obama-haloThe Social Scene

People who are viewed as charismatic or popular tend to be rated highly in other areas as well (On the other hand, people lacking in such traits aren’t seen well as a whole). This creates a feedback mechanism whereby a person who is perceived as well-liked and favored gains more applause and appreciation.

The Halo Effect has been used to describe United States’ President Barack Obama’s rise to success and popular approval. As well as his later drastic plunge in public favor.

The president’s public speaking ability, confidence, and good looks helped to increase his nationwide approval via the Halo Effect. Despite not having the political clout of others, his social favor helped grant him the highest office of the country.

Enter the Reverse Halo Effect. The president’s inability to satisfy some of the desires of those who initially approved of him caused his overall approval to decline. What was once a slight disappointment among supporters turned into the largest decline in approval of any president in the last half century, with predictions of it dropping even further.

In other words, beware the Halo Effect.

Do you notice your use of the Halo Effect? Have you ever seen the Halo Effect in process?

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30 thoughts on “The Halo Effect

  1. I have seen the halo effect in process many times over, I’m way more aware of not using it anymore. I am pretty good at picking up red flags off of subtle things your average person might not see. I know you see things your average person doesn’t pick up on Alee ;). I don’t think people are perfect in every area based off of what they choose to share with the public or just because they are my significant other. I rely on actually getting to know someone and seeing behind the scenes, seeing how they deal with everyday life and relationships. Its honestly frightening how many people I know that have this halo going on, but if you were in their head or saw behind the scenes, there is lying and dysfunction going on! I like to encourage people not to make superficial judgements, especially basing your beliefs off a “public” persona. People show you what they want to show you, its rare to find someone who will say, “look, my life is jacked up in this area!”. Most people rather act like their life is all together.

  2. Nikisha,

    “I am pretty good at picking up red flags off of subtle things your average person might not see. I know you see things your average person doesnโ€™t pick up on Alee”

    Hopefully! I mean, as much time as I spend studying people, I should have something to show for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    ‘People show you what they want to show you, its rare to find someone who will say, โ€œlook, my life is jacked up in this area!โ€.’

    …Look my life is jacked up in this area!

    ๐Ÿ˜€

    Honestly, I think people tend to halo-ize me (or reverse halo-ize me…). But I’m scared of people doing that. For one, it’s too much pressure. How could you keep up this perfect image? Because it only takes a few slip-ups for that halo to turn into horns. And it’s a long drop from the top.

  3. Alee,

    Hopefully! I mean, as much time as I spend studying people, I should have something to show for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I hope so too! I love studying people ;).

    Honestly, I think people tend to halo-ize me (or reverse halo-ize meโ€ฆ). But Iโ€™m scared of people doing that. For one, itโ€™s too much pressure. How could you keep up this perfect image? Because it only takes a few slip-ups for that halo to turn into horns. And itโ€™s a long drop from the top.

    I feel the same exact way Alee. But, all you can do is try and keep it 100 ;). No one can keep up a perfect image. Eventually something will come out, especially if your in the public eye. It is a long drop from the top!

  4. I think the Halo effect is impossible to escape, but knowing that it’s there might help people be at least a bit more objective.

    I tend to perceive less attractive people as nicer or more intelligent. But it’s not any better to do this than to see attractive people as nicer.

    As for Obama, I don’t know. I mean, I judge American presidents based on the harm they can do to me, and Obama’s not as high on this scale as some others were, so I don’t hate him (other than the general dislike I have for all the politicians).

  5. Hmm. In general, I’d say you meet folks, and if you get a great first impression (for whatever reason) , you naturally want more. Everyone has weaknesses, and as you learn folks weaknesses, you can either work with them or you can’t. I admit up front I am imperfect, and have no interest in perfection!

    On the subject of President Obama, I suppose this Halo effect could be something at work, but I think it is more likely that we are in very challenging times and these problems aren’t easy to fix.

  6. Nikisha, you just forgot the backslash in front of the last “i”… Fixed.

    You don’t need to know html, you can just look/copy under the commenting tab. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Lol at “keep it 100”. You sound like my brother.

    Nkosazana,

    Reverse Halo much? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Jasmin,

    Lol. You certainly have the Halo hanging around sometimes. It’s missing in the avatar but it’s usually there. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Sherry,

    People don’t want to work with weaknesses. They want their angel to be perfect. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes, we’re in challenging times but why did people expect one man to turn it all around in one term? If they weren’t under the spell of the Halo Effect they’d have realized that “Yes We Can” really means, “Yes We Can Try.”

  8. Mira,

    No, it’s not any beter to think less attractive people are nicer — it’s the same concept. Just a little mixed, I guess. I know people who do that, however: ascribe “good” moral attributes to people who seem to be lacking in the physical.

  9. I must say it seems to happen a lot in politics lately, our last few Presidents have been seen as relatively attractive and what ppl perceive as relatable, you know ‘I could have a beer’ with this guy. The phenomenon is the better looking you are, the more likely you can run for President and win even w/o experience. Why do you think Romney doing so well, it will be interesting Presidential election next year if he runs against Obama and looks like he will be.

  10. Jasmin,

    : X

    Lol.

    Eugenia,

    George Bush is good-looking? Lol. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I agree he seems relatable. That’s one thing Barack I guess doesn’t and never did have… he is seen as a god amongst mortals.

    “Why do you think Romney doing so well, it will be interesting Presidential election next year if he runs against Obama”

    ..Yes, Mitt Romney is a hottie, I have to say. (It feels weird to say that about him, hah.) He certainly looks the part of a politician. I saw him in NH when he was speaking on some housing issues in the mid-2000s. He looked like a Ken doll, no joke… It’s so eerie how perfect he looks, although he’s looking a little older now.

  11. George Bush is good-looking? Lol. ๐Ÿ™‚

    My thoughts exactly!

    I agree he seems relatable. Thatโ€™s one thing Barack I guess doesnโ€™t and never did haveโ€ฆ he is seen as a god amongst mortals.

    Interesting. I always saw Obama as a “guy next door”. He just has that vibe around him. Like an ordinary guy, but in a suit.

  12. Mira,

    “Interesting. I always saw Obama as a โ€œguy next doorโ€. He just has that vibe around him. Like an ordinary guy, but in a suit.”

    Really? I guess he tries to be, in some ways: like someone who is friendly and understands the common person…Maybe he is both a god and a human. Don’t those have as special name or something? ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. @Alee you know why I like George Bush, he’s got that cowboy thing going, I’m still a Texas gal at heart also he’s got bow-legs and I got a thing for man with bow-legs. When I saw Prince Harry walk in at his brother’s wedding, I noticed he had bow-legs which are super sexy to me. Hmm to each his own ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Eugenia,

    Oh, I see. I forgot you were from the country otherwise known as Texas. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Bow legs, really?

    “Hmm to each his own”

    Definitely. Hah.

  15. eugenia, My mom had the biggest crush on George Bush. She use to always call him “Mr Bush” in a sexy voice haha. Even if I disagree with his politics, I also think he was a pretty cute old man. He had a certain charm to him. I think he is an okay man outside of politics. I always liked him when he’s been on talk shows. Someone I could grab a drink with for sure haha.

  16. Oh, I like bow legs. It’s one of the things that make Keanu Reeves hot.

    But George Bush? Not my type at all. I mean, the guy looks like a monkey to me. (And while I like monkeys as animals, they’re cute and all… Bush’s face isn’t attractive to me). Maybe if we put a bag on his face or something. He has an ok body.

    Obama, on the other hand, is too skinny for my taste, but he has a cute face. I don’t know, I guess I’m not that familiar with his politics and I don’t know what he usually talks about, but he has that “guy next door vibe” to me.

  17. @Mira Bush isn’t what I’d call cute, I don’t really know how to describe it. Because a man doesn’t have to be classically handsome to me for me to find him attractive. There’s something about his ‘air’ that made him handsome to me and he’s dumb as bag of hammers but he was smart enough to know to get ppl smarter than him to help him, he’s odd.

    I find President Obama extremely attractive, I love tall men and that man is tall, kind of lanky but not super skinny. And he’s so dang smart, so even if he wasn’t like ‘fall down’ hot he’s just so smart it’s a turn on. Maybe it’s an old woman thing, I don’t know. LOL.

  18. Mira,

    “But George Bush? Not my type at all. I mean, the guy looks like a monkey to me.”

    I didn’t want to say it but…

    “Obama, on the other hand, is too skinny for my taste, but he has a cute face.”

    Obama has a nice body and nice face, to me. Yeah. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. I have long list of men I find attractive and I’m not exactly sure why, sometimes it creeps me out. Because there are people I find attractive and I have very specific reasons for it, be it looks, humor, intelligence. But yea the attractiveness I find in ex-President Bush, even I don’t get it’s a conundrum. But then again sometimes I’m very odd.

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