Cognitive Bias Deep Dive: The Halo Effect

Cognitive Bias Deep Dive: The Halo Effect

After reading the articles we were provided to read and annotate I was really interested in the halo effect and have seen it many times in my life. The exact definition for halo effect is the tendency for an impression created in one area to influence opinion in another area. This can not only happen with humans and their impressions but can also be seen with a company, a brand, or certain products. A prime example of this with humans is when a person meets another person. A persons overall impression of a person may influence how we feel and think about a character. Basically a persons overall impression (He is super nice!”) will impact a persons evaluation of that other persons traits (“He also must be very smart!”).

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One major part of the halo effect is physical appearance of something. People who are considered and look attractive tend to be rated higher on their other traits they hold. Not only does the halo effect work with attractiveness but it also is seen in peoples social traits. For example, people that are sociable and friendly may also be seen as more likable, attractive, or smart. The halo effect makes it so that our perceptions of one quality lead to over biased judgments of peoples other qualities. While searching the web I found an interesting sort of experiment (the picture above) related to this effect with business and the real world. In the article the author goes into depth of how this effect comes into play when hiring I.T for a company/business and I feel its worth a read.

File:PSM V80 D211 Edward Lee Thorndike.png - Wikimedia Commons

The history of the halo effect dates all the way back to psychologist by the name of Edward Thorndike (above) who named it this in 1920. He conducted an experiment with commanding officers in the military and asked them to evaluate different qualities in their soldiers. Some of these qualities were leadership, physical appearance, intelligence, loyalty, and dependability. The goal of his experiment was to decide how the ratings of one certain quality trickled over to the assessments of other qualities. He found many answers and was right about some qualities directly effecting another. He found a correlation with high physique and intelligence meant a high physique and leadership skills.

blended learning graphic overview | jodieinblack | Flickr

Overall the halo effect in my opinion has a major impact in an abundance of different fields in the world. Its seen in the workplace, marketing, and unfortunately educational settings. A study to reference here would be an experiment that looked at academic records of about 4500 students. After that 28 different groups were created to rate the attractiveness of these students based of their student ID photo’s on a scale of 1 (unattractive) to 10 (very attractive). After this they were divided into 3 groups of below average, average, and above average. With these 3 groups researchers then compared the students grades between the classes taken online vs. a traditional face to face course. As a result they found that students who were rated as above average in appearance earned unquestionably lower grades in online classes than traditional classes.

In conclusion the halo effect alone is a very interesting cognitive bias to look at. Im sure that everyone that is social involved or a normal person has experienced this effect and thought about a person utilizing a biased judgement.

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