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Blinded by beauty: how the halo effect makes us choose the wrong people
Blinded by beauty: how the halo effect makes us choose the wrong people

Everyone, regardless of gender, age, or cultural background, is subject to this distortion.

Blinded by beauty: how the halo effect makes us choose the wrong people
Blinded by beauty: how the halo effect makes us choose the wrong people

In the human brain, 30% of all nerve cells in the cortex are involved in processing visual information. We have special neurons for facial recognition, and they fire in a sixth of a second.

With such powerful tools, it's no surprise that we rely primarily on their appearance when judging people. This feature leads to errors in the choice of friends, partners and employees, and this happens due to the halo effect.

What is this effect

The halo effect, or halo effect, occurs when the general impression of a person is transferred to his personality characteristics. In other words, when you like a person, you immediately think that he is not only beautiful, but also smart, benevolent, successful and generally good on all fronts.

The halo effect was discovered in 1915 during an experiment in two industrial corporations. It turned out that the ratings of selected employees on various indicators are strikingly convergent: they are smart, tech-savvy, and reliable. Scientists realized that the scores are unrealistic and the evaluators unconsciously inflate them because they treat these people well.

The same was observed among the military. When the officers described their subordinates, some had just an ideal image: physically developed, intelligent, with a strong character and leadership qualities. The link between physical attractiveness and other criteria was strongest.

People don't specifically attribute good traits to "pets". They sincerely think so and are unaware of the distortion. In one experiment, American students were given an interview with an instructor who spoke with a European accent. Scientists wrote down two options: in one, the speaker was affable and friendly, in the other - cold and aloof.

Students who watched the “warm” interview said that they liked the accent and the man himself, too. Those who got the tape with the "unfriendly guy" claimed that he pisses them off. At the same time, when the students were asked what the reason was, they named the accent, and not other features of the instructor.

This experiment is about the overall impression of a person, not about physical beauty. But, as practice has shown, external attractiveness greatly affects the overall impression.

How beauty affects people's assessments

Attractive people are generally rated more positively, whether they are familiar or not. This is true for men and women, adults and children. People love more beautiful people regardless of culture. Interestingly, in different countries the criteria for beauty are approximately the same.

Attractive people are automatically considered healthier, more successful, and more competent. A person's impression influences political choices, leadership assessments, legal affairs, and even parenting attitudes toward their own children.

Teachers are guided by appearance, making predictions about the success of freshmen, the compositions of pretty girls seem better to students, even if objectively they are very mediocre.

The distortion is further increased when very beautiful or ugly people are judged and when peers are judged. The closer a person is in age, the more important his external data.

So people who won the genetic lottery and were born beautiful have a simpler life than not so attractive.

How the halo effect can get in the way

The first impression is often wrong. When you see a photograph of a person or meet him for the first time, you create an image that then influences your attitude. An analysis of a million opinions about first impressions showed that people are much more accurate in judging a person as a whole when they do not see him.

This was confirmed by another experiment: when teachers were deprived of the opportunity to navigate by the appearance of students, their assessments of academic success became much more accurate.

The emphasis on appearance does not allow us to correctly evaluate a person, be it an applicant, student or potential partner. By appearance, you can understand Internal facial features are signals of personality and health, how friendly, trusting or neurotic a person is, but it does not say anything about his intelligence, the presence of common interests, the ability to create strong relationships, conscientiousness.

Blinded by beauty, you can tolerate a negligent employee, lazy student, or unsuitable partner for a long time. And the worst part is that you can't do anything about it.

The first impression about a person is created without your knowledge, at the subconscious level. You don’t choose whether to admire someone’s appearance or not, you don’t make a conscious transfer: "Oh, he is handsome, which means he is probably smart and will work well." For some reason, you just think that this person is good.

Here one can only advise to remain vigilant and strive for objectivity. Be guided by facts, not intuition, and you will protect yourself from at least some of the mistakes.

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