11 March 2013

Beautiful People are Smart and Kind – The Halo Effect

Is George Clooney a kind person? I guess, most of my lady readers will answer “Yes”. However, there is no solid base for this answer in the sense that very likely none of my lady readers have interacted with Mr. Clooney in a context that would allow them to correctly evaluate his kindness.

Probably one of the oldest judgment biases identified is the Halo Effect. It was discovered by Edward Thorndike in 1920. The main idea behind the halo effect is that our evaluation of one trait such as physical attractiveness spills over other unrelated attributes such as intelligence or kindness.

The psychological mechanism behind the halo effect is a mixture of heuristics. When evaluating, for example, someone’s intelligence, the correct question to answer is “What is this person’s IQ?”. However, this question is hard to answer in the absence of the result of an IQ test score. At the same time, it is easy to see if someone is attractive. Here is where attribute substitution occurs. We believe that good looking (attractive) people are more intelligent.

The affect heuristic is the most relevant one when it comes to the halo effect.  When asked if someone is intelligent (which is hard to answer), we tend to give the answer to the unrelated question of “Do I like this person?” which is easy to answer. However, the halo effect and the affect heuristic are distinct.

The halo effect has a reverse also known as the “Devil effect”. In essence people who are evaluated negatively on one trait are perceived negatively on other unrelated traits.

The halo effect has implications on aspects of life more significant than the kindness or intelligence of movie stars. For example in human resources management, particularly in recruiting, the halo effect might occur. Professional recruiters are trained to correct for things such as physical attractiveness. At the same time, in absence of a very well structured “ideal candidate” profile, the halo effect may occur with a starting point (trait) other than good looks. For example, a person can score high on relevant work experience, but if the profile does not specifically include “self-management” abilities or “taking responsibility”, the recruiter might simply imply that the candidate scores high on these traits too.   

The halo effect occurs in marketing related aspects. For example good looking cars are perceived as reliable even if there is absolutely no link between the two. If you don’t believe me, try Alpha Romeo…

Another instance of the halo effect in marketing is not at the product level, but rather at the portfolio level. For example, if one company produces a high end product, then people will infer that other products from the same company will have similar qualities as the high end one.

The halo effect is a very good illustration of how we tend to make judgments about unrelated aspects of a person, product, company, country etc. Some traits are correlated and the halo effect is useful, but more often than not it occurs when aspects are not correlated.

Like it?  Spice Up  Your Business

This post is documented from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_effect

No comments: