Description

The halo effect helps explains why first impressions are so important. This phenomenon describes how has a positive impression about someone for one reason will lead to positive impressions about other aspects of this person. This term was coined by Edward Thorndike, and is now used not only for people, but for companies, brands and products. This cognitive bias has important implications in the fields of marketing, human resources, justice, and education. The effect occurs for negative impressions as well (in that case the term “horns effect” is sometimes used). We tend to make fast judgments based on a small amount of information, so understanding the halo effect is important in limiting its impact.

Example

Physical appearance can influence how we perceive someone’s intelligence. A study by Landy and Sigall demonstrated just that: students were asked to write essays, and then a photo of an attractive or unattractive actor was added to the assignment. The participants that had photos of attractive actors with their paper received significantly better grades than the others.

Further Reading

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The Decision Lab is a think tank focused on creating positive impact in the public and private sectors by applying behavioral science.

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