Halo effect

Halo effect
When we judge the looks of John Ausonius, it could matter if we think he is a) a blossoming movie star, b) an award-winning scientist, or c) a bankrobber and attempted serial killer.

The halo effect is a cognitive bias whereby the perception of one trait (i.e. a characteristic of a person or object) is influenced by the perception of another trait (or several traits) of that person or object. An example would be judging a good-looking person as more intelligent.

Edward 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; he 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 influence our interpretation and perception of later ones because of our expectations. Attractive people are often judged as having a more desirable personality and more skills than someone of average appearance.

Karen Dion's 1972 study showed the same result. She set an experiment in which she showed photographs to people, and asked them to make a judgment of the people in the photos. In the result, attractive people are assumed to have a good personality as well as being sexually warm and responsive.

The term has also been used in regard to human rights organizations who use their status but move away from their stated goals. For example, Gerald M. Steinberg, the founder and president of NGO Monitor, claims that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) take advantage of a "halo effect" and are "given the status of impartial moral watchdogs" by governments and the media.[1]


Reverse halo effect

A corollary to the halo effect is the reverse halo effect where individuals, brands or other things judged to have a single undesirable trait are subsequently judged to have many poor traits, allowing a single weak point or negative trait to influence others' perception of the person, brand or other thing in general.[2][3]

The iPod has had positive effects on perceptions of Apple's other products

As a business model

In brand marketing, a halo effect is one where the perceived positive features of a particular item extend to a broader brand. It has been used to describe how the iPod has had positive effects on perceptions of Apple's other products.[4] The effect is also exploited in the automotive industry, where a manufacturer may produce an exceptional halo vehicle in order to promote sales of an entire marque. Modern cars often described as halo vehicles include the Dodge Viper, Ford GT, and Acura NSX.[citation needed]

Unconscious judgments

In 1977, social psychologist Richard Nisbett demonstrated that even if we were told that our judgments have been affected by the halo effect, we may have no awareness of when the halo effect influences us.[5][6]

See also


  1. ^ Nathan Jeffay, Academic hits out at politicised charities Interview with Gerald Steinberg, The Jewish Chronicle, June 24, 2010
  2. ^ Weisman, Jonathan (August 9, 2005). "Snow Concedes Economic Surge Is Not Benefiting People Equally". washingtonpost.com. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/08/AR2005080801445_pf.html. Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  3. ^ Deutsch, Claudia H. (August 16, 2006). "With Its Stock Still Lackluster, G.E. Confronts the Curse of the Conglomerate". nytimes.com. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/16/business/16place.html?n=Top%2FReference%2FTimes%20Topics%2FSubjects%2FC%2FCorporations. Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  4. ^ Wilcox, Joe (August 22, 2008). "The iPhone Halo Effect". Apple Watch - eweek.com. http://blogs.eweek.com/applewatch/content/mac_os_x/the_iphone_halo_effect.html. Retrieved 2008-09-10. 
  5. ^ Nisbett, R. E. and Wilson, T. D. (1977). Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes. Psychological review, 84(3), 231-259.
  6. ^ Nisbett, R. E. and Wilson, T. D. (1977) The halo effect: Evidence for unconscious alteration of judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35(4), 250-256.

Further reading


  • Asch, S.E. (1946). Forming impressions of personality. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 41, 258-290
  • Thorndike, E.L. (1920). A constant error on psychological rating. Journal of Applied Psychology, IV, 25-29
  • Kelly, G.A. (1955). The psychology of personal constructs (Vols. 1 and 2). New York: Norton.
  • What is beautiful is good. Dion, Karen; Berscheid, Ellen; Walster, Elaine. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 24(3), Dec 1972, 285-290 [doi.apa.org/getuid.cfm?uid=1973-09160-001]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • halo effect — ➔ effect * * * halo effect UK US noun [S] ► the positive opinion that someone has of a person, product, company, etc. as a whole, which is based on an earlier opinion of one particular quality or feature: »The aim is to capitalise on the halo… …   Financial and business terms

  • halo effect — n generalization from the perception of one outstanding personality trait to an overly favorable evaluation of the whole personality …   Medical dictionary

  • halo effect — n. the tendency for an estimate or judgment to be influenced by an irrelevant or only loosely associated factor, impression, etc …   English World dictionary

  • Halo Effect — The halo effect is a term used in marketing to explain the bias shown by customers towards certain products because of a favorable experience with other products made by the same manufacturer or maker. Basically, the halo effect is driven by… …   Investment dictionary

  • halo effect — 1. a predisposition to admire all of a person s actions, work, etc., because of an estimable quality or action in the past. 2. Psychol. a potential inaccuracy in observation, as of a person, due to overgeneralization from a limited amount of… …   Universalium

  • halo effect — See horns and halo effect …   Big dictionary of business and management

  • halo effect —  Situation where past positive perceptions influence current judgment.  ► “The idea is that marketers will also benefit from a halo effect as consumers, seeing the HelpAd logo on a product, choose it over a competing brand in order to help a good …   American business jargon

  • halo effect — ha′lo effect n. psl cog a potential inaccuracy in estimation or judgment, esp. of a person, due to a tendency to overgeneralize from a single salient feature or action, usu. in a favorable direction • Etymology: 1925–30 …   From formal English to slang

  • halo effect — noun Date: circa 1928 generalization from the perception of one outstanding personality trait to an overly favorable evaluation of the whole personality …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Halo effect — Эффект ореола …   Краткий толковый словарь по полиграфии

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