Halo effect

The halo effect refers to a cognitive bias whereby the perception of a particular trait is influenced by the perception of the former traits in a sequence of interpretations.

Edward L. Thorndike was the first to support the halo effect with empirical research. In a psychology study published in 1920, Thorndike asked commanding officers to rate their soldiers; Thorndike found high cross-correlation between all positive and all negative traits. People seem not to think of other individuals in mixed terms; instead we seem to see each person as roughly good or roughly bad across all categories of measurement.

A study by Solomon Asch suggests that attractiveness is a central trait, so we presume all the other traits of an attractive person are just as attractive and sought after.

The halo effect is involved in Harold Kelley's implicit personality theory, where the first traits we recognize in other people then influence the interpretation and perception of latter ones (because of our expectations). Attractive people are often judged as having a more desirable personality and more skills than someone of average appearance. Celebrities are used to endorse products that they have no expertise in evaluating.

The halo effect is also a term used in human resources recruitment. While interviewing a person, you might be influenced by one of their attributes and ignore their other weaknesses.

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