A Psychology Minute: Halo Effect

Most of us come in contact with people every day. Some of them we have known for decades; some maybe a few years or even months. Some we have just met. But no matter how long we have known someone, we tend to make judgments about people on various levels. As we form these opinions, we are unknowingly influenced by what is called the halo effect.

The halo effect is people’s tendency to judge individuals on various matters by our overall impression of them. For example, if we feel that a person is “nice,” we are more likely to attribute other positive qualities to them, such as being smart, hardworking and loyal.

In fact, this is what led psychologist Edward Thorndike to term this bias as the “halo” effect, as if a person had a halo over their head and “could do no wrong.” But if we perceive someone as unkind, we might unconsciously develop a sense that he or she is shifty, unreliable and/or dimwitted. So, the next time you find yourself making a judgment about a person’s particular skill or character, consider just what is guiding this. You might find you aren’t as shrewd as you think.

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