Halo Effect definition

The halo effect describes a cognitive bias when judging others whereby judgements about that person’s character are influenced by an overall positive impression about that person. Originally developed by psychologist Edward Thorndike, the halo effect has been extensively studied in a variety of fields including physical attractiveness in relation to societal success as well as product marketing.

In product marketing, halo effects around a particular product in a larger organisation’s product portfolio may influence sales of unrelated products in the portfolio. This may be exploited as a form of green washing by releasing a product with strong environmental credentials in the hope buyers will cognitively extend the environmental credentials to the company as a whole and by extension all its other lines.

A significant amount of research has focused on physical attractiveness; studies have, for example, suggested attractive people are less likely to be convicted by juries. Other studies have suggested judgements of a person’s attractiveness will affect judgements of that person in other positive personality traits e.g. kindness.

The devil effect is linked to the halo effect; essentially it’s the same except it concerns negative impressions e.g. negative perceptions of a workers may influence future judgements about that individual’s performance.

Both the devil effect and halo effect have attracted criticism – some studies have shown, for example, that a woman’s judgement of an attractive person’s other traits is influenced by gender. They tend to rank attractive men highly on other positive traits while saying that attractive women are undesirable when it comes to other traits.

The Halo Effect is an important consideration in group dynamics.