The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect is a type of cognitive bias in which our overall impression of a person influences how we feel and think about his or her character. Essentially, our overall impression of a person (e.g. “He is nice!”) impacts our evaluations of that person’s specific traits (“He is also smart!”). Often, confirmation bias can make the halo effect even more powerful. Once someone has formed a positive opinion of a person (or product), any further interaction that’s also positive, reinforces the positive opinion, whereas negative interactions are often cast to one side. The halo effect is why brands seek celebrity endorsements and how physically attractive people sometimes get hired at job interviews more frequently. The reverse halo effect (sometimes called the “devil horns” effect) is also true in that a negative characteristic will make a person or product seem overall less attractive. Similarly to the negativity bias, this cognitive bias can make negative first impressions have a much stronger impact.

One useful counter-measure is to ask: What attributes am I linking together between the original piece of information and my related assumptions? Are they really linked or imagined? How can I justify any links I’ve observed?

For a full list of the most common biases, click here.