Halo Effect

Last day, with lot of excitement, my manager said to me, “Hey, we got a new team member finally. Her name is Rhea and she will be joining coming Monday”.  

As soon as I hear the name with the same excitement, I started imagining her as a young girl who will be attractive, smart and intelligent. Later to my slight disappointment, I found her to be short and plump in her mid-30s.

So, why my perception of one trait of this girl’s ‘attractive’ name got influenced me to imagine other characteristics of her like personality and intelligence.

This bias is called Halo effect and we all fall for this bias especially with people.

What is Halo Effect?

The Halo effect is the bias where the perception of one trait of a person or object is influenced by the perception of other trait(s) of that person or objects.

For example, when a guy sees an attractive girl, the first impression he will get is good looking (which will be obvious by looking at her) but at the same time, he will also judge her to be smart and intelligent. However, it might not be true always in reality.

The halo effect is not solely limited to the way we look at other people. It can also play a role in how we judge various professions, various systems in the society like education, judgement law in courts and things such as products and brands.

Let’s take another example in education. A study was conducted in one school to evaluate the short essays written by students. Before evaluating the essays, the actual names of the students were replaced by some attractive names and some with very common or unattractive names. The Overall study found that the essays that have attractive names got good grades as compared to the ones with unattractive names.

How you can avoid it?

Like the old saying, one should not judge a book by its cover. One should use debiasing techniques such as slowing down your reasoning process. For example, you should try not to stick any single perception as soon as you meet someone for the first time. Over a period, you can conclude to one perception as you know the person better.