In social psychology, this is a classic finding illustrating cognitive bias that characterizes the impression that a person thinks or feels about others. In essence, people assume one thing about a person because that person doing another thing. For example, one may be regarded by the community as being smart simply because he is nice or because he is good at one thing, people assume that he is good at another thing. The halo effect was first brought to light by Edward Thorndike. His research was based on how commanding officers viewed their subordinates. He concluded that officers had an impression of any one of the soldiers as being either good or bad. He also reported a few mixed traits.
The halo effect is extremely influenced by first impressions. People tend to accept the first person and refuse to allow any contradictions as to the veracity of his story. Recent scholarly inquiry indicates that it is hard to view someone in a bad light, if one had already created an impression of being an upright person. The halo effect thus seems to support and hold as true the adage that first impressions count. Indeed, entrepreneurs have capitalized on this phenomenon by paying huge sums of money to beautiful actresses and heroic actors to advertise their goods and services. This is despite the fact that such persons may have no expertise at all in the provision of such services or never used the advertised goods. The impression created is a positive one to the business. The beautiful actress makes people feel good about themselves and consequently this quality is inferred to the goods or services while heroic actors make life seem easy.
The use of the halo effect has been mastered by politicians. They are usually well-disposed and warm during political campaigns. Despite the fact that they do not say anything substantial, many people tend to believe that because they are friendly, their policies are good. This phenomenon can also be used to explain company performances. If a company is profitable and is continuously growing, the public tend to think that the management is guided by a brilliant strategy. They infer that the CEO of such a company is a visionary and a great leader. Similarly, the management of a failing company is viewed as complacent. It can be said, therefore, that first impressions were built to last.
However, death usually creates an inexplicable phenomenon. The death of a person usually establishes an elevated and resolute halo effect. This is when the perception of a how the deceased was, instantly shifts to being good. It is rare for people to talk evil of the dead irrespective of how immoral or bad they were during their lifetime. People will try to dig up any good that the deceased had done, however marginal or irrelevant.
The research carried out by Thorndike was ground breaking with regards to the halo effect. The correlations he created in the ratings of one characteristic in relation to another laid the foundations for further research. The first person impressions are established by many factors. One of these is the attractiveness of the person. Good looks are associated with a positive personality and such people are viewed as more intelligent than ugly people. Indeed, research has shown that it is less likely for an attractive person to be found criminal liable of a crime.
Rose, M. J. (2010). The Halo Effect. New York: Mira.
Rosenzweig, P. (2009). The Halo Effect: and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers. New York: Free Press.
Rosenzweig, P. M. (2008). The Halo Effect: How Managers Let Themselves be Deceived. New York: Pocket Books.
Yeffeth, G. (2013). Halo Effect. New York: BenBella Books, Inc.