The Halo Effect: When Your Own Mind is a Mystery

Posted on March 18, 2017

Meet the Halo Effect – when global evaluations about a person (eg she is attractive) can have a spillover impact on your judgements about their specific traits (eg she is likeable). Celebrities are a perfect manifestation of this effect. Being attractive and likeable renders most of us to assume other positive qualities about them as well – kind, friendly etc. That is, until we come across evidence to the contrary.

But something to consider – can we actually pick up these misjudgements by simply going through our thought process back to the original mistake?

Well-known social psychologist Richard Nisbett conducted a research to determine how much control do we actually have to our thought processes and the halo effect in general. Students were told to watch two videos of the same lecturer, who happened to have a strong Belgian accent. One group watched the lecturer who portrayed himself in an extremely warm and friendly manner whereas the other group watched the lecture answer questions in a cold and distant manner. After each group of students watched the videos they were asked to rate the lecturer on physical appearance, mannerisms and even his accent.

The results were consistent with the halo effect – students who saw the friendly version of the lecturer rated him higher on appearance, mannerisms and even his accent. What is surprising to note is that these students do not have any clue why they gave one lecturer higher ratings!

Such use of this effect is seen in the business world. It is worth noting that even though we may be able to understand the halo effect intellectually, we have no idea that it is actually happening. And most of us may still deny it till the end. Keeping that in mind, the next time we think we like someone, think about whether we are really evaluating the specific traits of the person or making assumptions based on global evaluations!

Category(s):Mental Health in Asia

Source material from Psyblog

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