It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


The Halo Effect

page: 1

log in


posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 12:14 PM
“Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve” - Erich Fromm

This is the first of several similar threads that i hope to make for your reading pleasure. Psychology is such an interesting subject and i hope you all get something from them.

This first thread looks at The Halo Effect......

The 'halo effect' is a classic finding in social psychology. It is the idea that global evaluations about a person (e.g. she is likeable) bleed over into judgements about their specific traits (e.g. she is intelligent). Hollywood stars demonstrate the halo effect perfectly. Because they are often attractive and likeable we naturally assume they are also intelligent, friendly, display good judgement and so on. That is, until we come across (sometimes plentiful) evidence to the contrary.

In the same way politicians use the 'halo effect' to their advantage by trying to appear warm and friendly, while saying little of any substance. People tend to believe their policies are good, because the person appears good. It's that simple.

But you would think we could pick up these sorts of mistaken judgements by simply introspecting and, in a manner of speaking, retrace our thought processes back to the original mistake. In the 1970s, well-known social psychologist Richard Nisbett set out to demonstrate how little access we actually have to our thought processes in general and to the halo effect in particular.

Likeability of lecturers

Nisbett and Wilson wanted to examine the way student participants made judgements about a lecturer (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977). Students were told the research was investigating teacher evaluations. Specifically, they were told, the experimenters were interested in whether judgements varied depending on the amount of exposure students had to a particular lecturer. This was a total lie.

In fact the students had been divided into two groups who were going to watch two different videos of the same lecturer, who happened to have a strong Belgian accent (this is relevant!). One group watched the lecturer answer a series of questions in an extremely warm and friendly manner. The second group saw exactly the same person answer exactly the questions in a cold and distant manner. Experimenters made sure it was obvious which of the lecturers alter-egos was more likeable. In one he appeared to like teaching and students and in the other he came across as a much more authoritarian figure who didn't like teach at all.

After each group of students watched the videos they were asked to rate the lecturer on physical appearance, mannerisms and even his accent (mannerisms were kept the same across both videos). Consistent with the halo effect, students who saw the 'warm' incarnation of the lecturer rated him more attractive, his mannerisms more likeable and even is accent as more appealing. This was unsurprising as it backed up previous work on the halo effect.

Unconscious judgements

The surprise is that students had no clue whatsoever why they gave one lecturer higher ratings, even after they were given every chance. After the study it was suggested to them that how much they liked the lecturer might have affected their evaluations. Despite this, most said that how much they liked the lecturer from what he said had not affected their evaluation of his individual characteristics at all.

For those who had seen the badass lecturer the results were even worse - students got it the wrong way around. Some thought their ratings of his individual characteristics had actually affected their global evaluation of his likeability.

Even after this, the experimenters were not satisfied. They interviewed students again to ask them whether it was possible their global evaluation of the lecturer had affected their ratings of the lecturer's attributes. Still, the students told them it hadn't. They were convinced they had made their judgement about the lecturer's physical appearance, mannerisms and accent without considering how likeable he was.

Common uses of the halo effect

The halo effect in itself is fascinating and now well-known in the business world. According to 'Reputation Marketing ' by John Marconi, books that have 'Harvard Classics' written on the front can demand twice the price of the exact same book without the Harvard endorsement. The same is true in the fashion industry. The addition of a well-known fashion designer's name to a simple pair of jeans can inflate their price tremendously.

But what this experiment demonstrates is that although we can understand the halo effect intellectually, we often have no idea when it is actually happening. This is what makes it such a useful effect for marketers and politicians. We quite naturally make the kinds of adjustments demonstrated in this experiment without even realising it. And then, even when it's pointed out to us, we may well still deny it.

Devil Effect

The inverse phenomenon called the "Devil Effect," and sometimes the "Horn Effect", doesn't seem to get as much attention, even though its impact is just as prevalent in society. Here, if a person seems particularly deficient in a critical trait, then that person is automatically assumed to be deficient in many other traits as well, related or otherwise. For example, an employee who is constantly "late" to work (perhaps due to other non-work responsibilities in the morning) is assumed to be negligent in their work-related duties, not committed to the job/company/project, and perhaps even lazy overall.

Ultimately, these faulty biases may prove to become factual due to the Pygmalion effect, or "self-fulfilling prophecy ", further reinforcing future errors in perception due to bias and predisposition by the observer. The person working long hours (perhaps compensating for technical incompetence), assumed to be a good worker is given greater opportunity and thus attains greater, albeit undue, career advancement (cf: The Peter Principle). Conversely, the worker who dresses shabbily is assumed to care little about their job, and therefore bypassed for greater opportunity when the situation arises, regardless of suitability or capacity otherwise. Essentially, this phenomenon is a psycho-social application of the Law of Proximity, whereby certain unrelated observations, found in the comparable subjects in a narrow sample set, are assumed to have a high correlation, when, in fact, no such correlation exists.

posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 12:15 PM
So, the next time you vote for a politician, consider buying a pair of designer jeans or decide whether you like someone, ask yourself whether the halo effect is operating. Are you really evaluating the traits of the person or product you thought you were? Alternatively is some global aspect bleeding over into your specific judgement? This simple check could save you voting for the wrong person, wasting your money or rejecting someone who would be a loyal friend.
Or perhaps, even if you do check, you'll still never know...Gulp.

Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D. (1977). The halo effect: Evidence for unconscious alteration of judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35(4), 250-6.

Some references to The Halo Effect in the news......

Speedo has been making waves at the Beijing Olympics but the swimwear brand is not just causing ripples in the Water Cube, it is also creating a stir in the world of sponsorship.

Rival brands have accused the firm of psychologically pressurising athletes to wear its latest swimsuit while coaches have attacked Speedo for sapping morale.
Performance boost

Behind all the upset is Speedo's LZR swimsuit - a space-age outfit that many believe can significantly improve performance.
Already in Beijing it has been worn in a string of world record swims, and helped

Michael Phelps to take six gold medals so far.
Some athletes are so convinced of its positive effects on performance that they have ditched sponsorship agreements with rival firms to get hold of it.

'Halo effect'
In coming months the group also plans to capitalise on its popularity, and broaden its appeal from traditional swimwear to a fashion brand - a move that will see it following in the footsteps of Adidas and Nike.
"The halo effect on the brand and the rest of its swimwear is going to be massive," says Rune Gustafson, chief executive on international branding consultancy Interbrand.

'Halo effect'
The iPod has also given birth to what Jobs describes as an eco-system of supporting products, by other outfits feeding off the iPod's success.

This includes the first mobile telephone equipped to work with iTunes. However, Motorola's Rokr has received mixed reviews.

But is the success of iPod and iTunes obscuring the struggle Apple is having in increasing its global market share in its core business: computers?

That share is still stuck at around three percent, but Apple points to what the media has dubbed the halo effect: the iPod is so dazzling that Apple's computers will be bathed in its divine light and the public will have to snap them up.

Phil Schiller says: "People for the first time are getting an Apple product with the iPod and seeing how great it is and are thinking about checking out our computers too."

The Halo Effect – Book

The most pervasive delusion is the Halo Effect. When a company’s sales and profits are up, people often conclude that it has a brilliant strategy, a visionary leader, capable employees, and a superb corporate culture. When performance falters, they conclude that the strategy was wrong, the leader became arrogant, the people were complacent, and the culture was stagnant. In fact, little may have changed—company performance creates a Halo that shapes the way we perceive strategy, leadership, people, culture, and more. The Halo Effect is widespread, undermining the usefulness of business bestsellers from In Search of Excellence to Good to Great.

Thanks for reading, i hope you find it as interesting as i do.

Look out for more
coming soon.


posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 12:24 PM
I find all of this fascinating and am looking forward to reading more from you.

No matter how it shows humans as being ignorant in so many ways.

Well done..

posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 12:27 PM
So it's kind of like subliminal messages, in a way? That's really interesting how the mind can do things with conscious and sub-conscious thoughts, as if everyone was a tad bit Schizophrenic XD

posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 01:02 PM

Somewhat related, possibly:

Some decades ago, the education department in NSW, Australia, conducted research to see if migrant children were disadvantaged as a group.

Selected children were asked to complete an essay. The essays were presented to a selected group of teachers who were asked simply to grade the essays

Each essay was presented to several teachers for grading, but the researchers altered the name at the top of the essay. Sometimes the essay appeared to be written by a typical Aussie child with the name 'Smith', 'Jones', 'Bradley' for example. When presented to other teachers, the name at the top of the essay was shown as being that of a typical migrant child with the surname 'Romanus', 'Apap', 'Gianecarlo'.

The researchers discovered that the teachers consistently awarded higher marks to those essays which bore the typical Aussie surnames. And they awarded lower marks to those essays which bore migrant surnames --- even though the essays remained the same apart from the surnames (and might have been written by either an Australian or a migrant).

The education department publicly acknowledged that bias in favour of Australian children .. even though unconscious on the part of teachers ... was clearly in evidence. The department undertook to conduct re-training of teachers in order to make them aware of the situation and to eliminate the obvious racial discrimination

Money and position might be considered another example of the halo-effect, do you think ?

Man or woman, plain in appearance and perhaps with seemingly unattractive or boring personality is overlooked by ambitious man, woman and their parents. ' Don't waste your time with him/her. They're going nowhere. Have nothing to offer'.

Suddenly, the same man or woman is credited with possessing charm, wit, intelligence, etc. when it's discovered they're in line to inherit a few million dollars, or when it's learned their father is Lord Haw Haw

Academic ability another halo-effect ? Until late middle-age, this man is head of a powerful union. He talks rough and tough. He calls general strikes and blacks-out half the country at whim. It's said many of his enemies lie in 44 gallon drums at the bottom of the harbour. People describe him as a thug, a murderer, a stand-over bully and criminal.

Then the media, intent on boosting his political ambitions, states that he's a Rhodes Scholar who attended Oxford. Suddenly the public holds him in high esteem and his decisions are seen as 'brilliant', 'intelligent', 'innovative' and consider him now as a mover and shaker who brought about 'things that had to happen for the overall good', etc.

Appearance as halo-effect ?

Same man: union boss turned politician. As a union boss he often appeared dishevelled, uncouth, his clothing unkempt, untidy. He had dark hair, wore dark suits, chain-smoked, swore, drank heavily and was known for his womanising.

During his climb to prominence in politics, he stopped dying his hair dark and now boasted a thick, white 'elder statesman' hair style. Gone were the dark suits. Now he invariably wore dove-grey suits and pastel ties which beautifully complimented his white hair. He now smiled benignly instead of glowering. No more smoking in public and declared he was permanently on the wagon. His extramarital affairs were air-brushed away and in their place were front page spreads featuring him with his wife and children .. the family man. He was elected as Prime Minister

Brand names demonstrate halo-effect ?

Generic brands of cornflour, gravy mix, peanut butter, cling wrap considered 'cheap', 'inferior'.

Same products sold under household-name brand considered 'better', 'more value', 'cleaner', 'more trustworthy' (even though they might be made by the same manufacturers who package the exact same product under generic no-name label)

posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 01:19 PM
Excellent post. I see this as yet more evidence that belief in the false image creates an entropic fractal that eventually consumes society. There is so much reliance on the promotion of image, on using Logo as a manipulative substitute for the Logos that we all crave, that many have fallen on that deep descent towards inward nihilism. The one good thing about that nihilistic element in us running its course, is that once it reaches its ultimate point, its crescendo, it is no longer self-sustaining. The nihilism turns into faith. I will let each individual decide for himself or herself what that faith is. There is a perspective that gets us out of these traps, but it involves not having faith in the false image, not succumbing to the subsequent pride that naturally follows, as our lives must be led in a way to reinforce the false image. We then do not fall into vanity, then narcissism, then lust. We do not then act in a way totally contrary to the collective, and ultimately individual, interest. If we do not view the world in a secure humility, in a nonjudgmental, forgiving way that forgets all the shadows that we place on others, then we continue the downward spiral. We have got to strive to see the inside rather than the outside of a person, but the most accurate picture will come from a nonjudgmental, forgiving perspective. We will learn, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Again, fantastic post. You have shined a light on what I see as a key problem in human relations. It is a root of many problems. I much prefer removing roots than clipping branches.

posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 01:23 PM
reply to post by LiveForever8

Why is this thread not getting S&F'ed to the moon?

great thread! really enjoyed reading it, i hope this get the attention it deserves because this is important to understand ourselves and out mind

posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 01:23 PM
I've noticed this more with new relationships and crushes. Seeing two people all gushy is really sickening.
But I guess that's not the same here. I suppose like anything, the honeymoon doesn't last very long.

Let's see how well this still works for Obama in the next election.

posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 01:31 PM
reply to post by LiveForever8

Do you have any thoughts on the matter yourself?

Just wondered as your entire thread is from other sources...

posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 01:41 PM
reply to post by blupblup

I just find it so unbelievably interesting. Psychology, i find, speaks for itself.

Its hard to have an 'opinion' on something like this, something you seemingly have no control over, other than to sit back in awe when its pointed out.

Like was said:

We quite naturally make the kinds of adjustments demonstrated in this experiment without even realising it. And then, even when it's pointed out to us, we may well still deny it.

Even when pointed out to the subjects they denied it!

How wonderful the human mind is

One thing it does make me think is how much more potential our minds still have.

The unconscious is a wonderful world of mystery.


posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 01:45 PM
Halo-effect ?

A poster launches dozens of 'sure fire' threads in a forum, those sure to elicit several dozen responses. We all know the 'trigger' topics:

* God doesn't exist !

* PROOF of God's existence !

* Masons are Evil !

* Freemasons Are Saving the World !

* LOOK ! PROOF of Ghosts ! What's in this photo ?

* Ghosts Do NOT EXIST ! PROOF !

* Grandfather has sex with Sisters ! Is This Wrong ?

* What's Wrong With Incest Anyway ?

* Are You Typical of YOUR Star Sign ?


The new member gets him/herself a snappy avatar, highly recognisable

He/she is frequently flagged courtesy of above 'controversial', 'sure fire popular' post topics he launched

The poster may reveal him/herself to be fairly shallow, predictable, grovelling, unintelligent

But, visit the forum three months later, and his Flag Contribution gauge might be almost completely blue, courtesy of all those who opted to post in the never-failed-yet threads he launched

To begin with, people might regard the poster as an empty kettle-drum

But when that same poster's Flag Contribution gauge shows all blue, suddenly that same poster is now regarded as 'respected', ' backbone of the forum', 'with opinions not to be doubted or contested'.

posted on Sep, 1 2009 @ 04:38 PM
reply to post by St Vaast

Some good examples there, i think you have grasped the idea

posted on Sep, 2 2009 @ 03:12 AM

Originally posted by St Vaast
Same products sold under household-name brand considered 'better', 'more value', 'cleaner', 'more trustworthy' (even though they might be made by the same manufacturers who package the exact same product under generic no-name label)

ah 'branding'...
same goes with pharmaceuticals.
even though the drug is literally the exact same molecules..
generic brands go for the majority.. by the side while name brands that get the fluffy images on TV are actually demanded by the patient to the doctor.. for many times up to 80% more moolah.

to the OP...

I really appreciate you posting this... S and F.

I say this because I've been thinking about this exact same thing for a long time.. but more intensely for the past couple months... moreso the past couple days..

regarding specifically the way I come off to a certain group of people I've been discussing certain things with.
When I am to the point of frustration of the importance that they 'get' what I'm trying to portray to them, and this vital info is just going in one ear out the other...

I become a bit brash and forceful in trying to 'push' the info into them and that only gets more resistance.

..... I've got to rethink the way I interact with people in this kind of circumstance... with the Halo/Horn effects in mind.

Hopefully in the future, we will literally see past the venier of illusion of surface physical impressions of people and see into the true intent of their heart.. see the true potential in them, their actual talent/beauty.. rather than the quite temporary masks of what our animal instincts trick us into thinking what is 'better' or 'right'...

at that seemingly intangible point in time when what I just described actually arrives as a general concensus of reality and interpersonal relaitonship... actually comes into reality...

I think this effect will become obsolete as we will laugh at how we used to be so ignorant.

but in the time being... I'm going to have to keep it in mind in rder to accomplish what I feel is necessary in getting my info across properly...

in the words of Maynard: 'I must persuade you another waaaaaay'...

thanks again.


new topics

top topics


log in