If you haven’t seen the show Brain Games; I highly suggest you watch it. I’ve learned so many fascinating things from this show, but one of the most intriguing is the halo vs. horn effect. The halo effect is the positive first impression which comes of a person, brand, or any entity because of certain historic past traits. The horns effect is just the opposite phenomena. It’s when one’s perception for another gets swayed by negative traits. Both of these effects are attributable to cognitive bias, a mistake in cognitive processes like reasoning and memory. When you have a cognitive bias, you hold onto your beliefs despite evidence to the contrary. Once you form an overall impression, you may work very hard to manipulate new evidence to fit your impression, whether it fits or not. It’s a “mental shortcut” or “illusion of the brain” and because our entire lives are encompassed by these judgements, they affect the very structure of our society today.
When forming a first impression, the halo effect can take hold in various forms; observing an initial attractive feature such as beauty or strength can make the person appealing, making it difficult to revise that impression based on new or opposing information. An attractive individual may also be perceived as interesting, ambitious, or funny.
The term was established by psychologist Edwin Thorndike in 1920. Thorndike asked commanding officers to rate soldiers on physical characteristics such as physique, and personality traits such as intellect, loyalty, and leadership. He discovered unexpectedly strong correlations between superior physical characteristics and superior personality traits.
Whenever individuals present themselves for interviews when seeking job opportunities, it is usually those who are impeccably dressed and can express themselves more clearly, that tend to be considered or given the job. The Pursuit of Happiness movie is a prime example of that. Another example is when a consumer’s love for a certain product may prompt them to choose the item with the same brand name when faced with two options, even when the knock-off version is far less expensive than the known brand. When an initial perception creates a negative aura around a person or product, the halo effect may then be referred to as the “horns effect” or the “reverse halo effect.” For example, if you hear your new boss criticizing an innocent employee on your first day at a new job, you may form an overall negative impression of him or her. Even if he or she later apologizes to the employee or has other redeeming qualities, you may still continue to believe that the individual is a poor boss.
It’s truly agreeable that social perception plays a vital role in individuals’ everyday lives. I believe that the factors that contribute most to an individual’s perception of another are based off of how a person is dressed and how they express themselves. Meaning, people tend to think highly of others who are well-groomed, as well as those who are able to communicate more clearly. This perception also gives credibility to the fact that a person can affect how others perceive them. Like I mentioned in my last blog, tattoos in the workplace are one of the biggest misperceptions people have, especially when proving the halo vs. horns effect.
In conclusion, we’ve all experienced the halo effect, where we judge another person either correctly or incorrectly based on a single attribute. But being more self-aware of this can help you break such a subjective lifestyle. Not only will you make more informed, fair-minded decisions, but you’ll be a better person for it too. I honestly believe this is something we must all work on!