Endless Curiosity

October 27, 2009

Beliefs: The Halo Effect

Filed under: The Brain — Alec @ 7:50 am

We tend to ascribe good qualities to things we find attractive, and bad qualities to things we find unattractive. The former is the Halo Effect; the latter Gary Marcus terms the Pitchfork Effect. For example, we tend to think that good looking teachers are better teachers, we vote for people who look physically more competent, we buy things advertised by attractive people. And “study after study has shown that attractive people get better breaks in job interviews, promotions, admissions interviews, and so on.”

Here are a couple of rather scary examples from Kluge, pages 42-43.

Children of ages three to five gave higher ratings to foods like carrots, milk, and apple juice if they came in McDonald’s packaging.

People were shown pictures of two children, one more attractive, the other less so. The subjects were then told that the child, let’s call him Junior, had just thrown a snowball, with a rock inside it, at another child; the test subjects then were asked to interpret the boy’s behavior. People who saw the unattractive picture characterized Junior as a thug, perhaps headed to reform school; those shown the more attractive picture delivered judgments that were rather more mild, suggesting, for example, that Junior was merely “having a bad day.”

So, as it pertains to you, make sure you come across as friendly, cheerful, optimistic, and physically attractive. As it pertains to others, try to evaluate everything on its own merits rather than being seduced by the halo or pitchfork effect.


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