Understanding The Halo Effect And How It Affects Our Relationships

How objective are we when we meet someone for the first time? Do we really have the ability to judge that person’s personality traits in a way that’s unbiased? According to psychologists, not at all – thanks to what is known as the Halo Effect.

The Halo Effect is there, even when we don't know it.
The Halo effect is deceiving because there are many sides to people.

What Is The Halo Effect?

The halo effect is a type of cognitive bias whereby our overall impression of a person influences how we feel and think about his or her character. This means that if we see a beautiful lady, for example, we may automatically assume she is also kind-hearted, intelligent and fun. The term was first coined by Edward Thorndike, a psychologist who used it in a study published in 1920. He used it to describe the way that commanding officers rated their soldiers. Thorndike found that officers usually judged their men as being either good right across the board or bad. Few were said to be good in one thing but bad in another.

How Does The Halo Effect Influence Our Relationships?

The Halo Effect can influence our relationships in a very straightforward way. It may well explain why we sometimes wonder how we were fooled by someone we knew for so long. When we meet a lady, for example, and she makes quite an impression on us, the Halo Effect may influence the way we see her, almost completely blinding us to her deficiencies. Just because she enters our “good books”, we tend to excuse all her bad behaviors, largely overlooking mistakes and justifying her wrongdoings.

Conversely, when someone makes a bad impression, we will seek to justify our first judgment of that person, failing to notice any signs that this person may, indeed, not be as bad as we originally thought or that there may be some good sides to them.

This may lead us to either choose to be with someone who is not as good as we think or to reject someone whose good sides we simply failed to notice, due to the Halo effect. The only thing we can do to avoid such circumstances is to try to be more objective and wary of the fact that people are multifaceted creatures and that in life things are seldom black or white.