If there’s ever been a time you felt mistreated or misunderstood by someone else whether it be an employer, a mutual friend, or a stranger, you may have been the victim of the halo effect.
It’s known as the halo effect because those we tend to form better first impressions of are more likely to fit our requirements for likability simply because we judged them prematurely.
Although it is out of our control for people to form opinions on us as soon as we meet them, if we understand the effect, we can prevent others from being treated differently than they may normally be used to.
What is the halo effect?
The halo effect is a cognitive bias in which our impressions of people influence how we feel and think about their character before truly getting to know them.
However, the effect can stay with someone we have a better relationship with as this is our way of sticking to what we know and who we trust.
It’s similar to the anchoring effect which I wrote about and you can view here.
The anchoring effect is when we form opinions on topics before we know everything about it as we want to feel we understand it before we fully do.
An example would be hearing a politician say something you like so you are much more likely to follow with the rest of what they have to say and agree.
Although one of the main factors of the halo effect stems around attractiveness, the full effect paired with the anchoring effect is almost identical but with people.
We can have a really good relationship with someone and all of their actions seem justified.
It isn’t until they do something so dislike them outside of what we agree with that we may try and argue them about it.
The same goes for people we don’t like.
They can say something we would agree with if said by someone else, but we won’t agree unless said by someone we like and trust.
Like I said though, this is the similarity in the anchoring effect and relationships while the main point of the halo effect is attractiveness.
It’s also known as the physical attractiveness stereotype because if we find someone attractive, we may already have our opinion formed that we like them.
It can be an annoying power held over us because we are prisoners to this method of thinking our brain follows that I like this person so they must be overall a good person.
Not until we find anything to counter this thought, we are always judging through the halo effect and subsequently the same is happening to us.
How do we avoid this effect
In the same way this ties into the anchoring effect, being aware of it is what matters most.
If you notice yourself subconsciously thinking I like this person so what they do is probably right then you may notice that judgement is a bit too out there.
It’s a judgement made before anything that will impact whether we see them as a good person or not.
While we cannot fully rid ourselves of the effect, with practice it can be relatively easy to notice and stop the effect from happening to you.
Unfortunately, the effect will always be taken into account on us. I’m not saying “hygiene isn’t important because they aren’t judging you for who you are” but looks can work in your favor as this is just the way society is.
Another way I like to look at this – while it is not always appearance and is mainly impression, this can be a benefactor if approached the right way.
An example being an employer meeting someone who is smart and lazy who might show their laziness first and their work may not seem as beneficial afterwards. If the employer had viewed their work first and liked what they saw, the laziness may not show as much after their impression for what they can do as an employee has already been judged.
This can explain why interviewing is necessary. In the professional world, people’s opinions do matter along with their work.
Instances where we have seen it in action
I remember having teachers who saw me as a well behaved, smart student with a good work ethic.
I also remember having teachers who saw me as intrusive and disrespectful to their efforts thinking I can do it myself without their help.
Their tendency for how they treated me changes and my teachers would either allow me to observe and retain the information or engage when I felt like it. Yet there were those who thought I wasn’t paying attention and would call me to answer the questions they know we had not gone over yet to use me as an example.
In both situations, I’m the same student. I just had a different first impression to them.
It may not bother me that much as it happens with everyone and it’s a part of being a person. And to the same degree, I may have judged them differently myself.
While you may not see the benefit of taking into account the effect because it will happen to you, it’s the same with any movement. Do it yourself and let other people know when they are not taking the right action making the wrong judgments.
We are all only human so this is natural. Being a victim of the effect is one thing, but disregarding it’s effect on ourselves and everyone around us is another.