Are you under the Halo Effect?

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(Photo by: Tat Biswas)

The Halo effect is a cognitive bias in which our overall impression of a person or thing is affected by our impression about one trait of that person or thing.Halo effect leads to transfer of feelings based on attributes which could be unrelated to each other.Halo effect is at play in creating both positive and negative associations.

Where do we see Halo effect at play?

  1. We tend to rate attractive individuals more favourably for their personality traits than those who are less attractive.

  2. We tend to judge the quality of a product based on the celebrity who acts as the brand ambassadors for the product.

  3. When an organisation in any industry or an individual is successful, we tend to attribute such success to a large extent on some superior management style or individual leadership ability.

Halo Effect Experiments

Solomon Asch devised this classic psychological experiment by presenting descriptions of two people and asked for comments on their personality.

Alan: intelligent – industrious – impulsive – critical – stubborn – envious

Ben: envious – stubborn – critical – impulsive – industrious – intelligent

Most people who participated in this experiment thought of Alan favourably over Ben. The order in which the traits appear has a significant effect in creating an overall impression of both Alan and Ben. As Daniel kahneman observed in Thinking Fast and Slow, halo effect increases the weight of first impressions, sometimes to the points that subsequent information is mostly wasted.

Are you under the Halo effect?

You probably are. And hence its’ called cognitive bias. It’s very hard if not impossible for us to recognise it when we are making split second decisions in our everyday life.

Why does the Halo Effect exist?

Halo effect allows us to make snap judgements under uncertainty, a trait which probably originated during the beginnings of human life in caves and vast untamed landscape shared with animals who were much more powerful and fought for the same food as early humans to survive. Evolution favours traits which increase chances of survival of a species and hence our human brains are still prone to make snap judgements everyday.

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