Have you ever wondered why you would prefer to sit next to a particular person as opposed to another on the bus? Have you ever associated smartness with people who wear glasses? Why do we judge people based on appearance or levels of attractiveness? This judgment is a type of cognitive basis called “the halo effect.” What is the halo effect? The halo effect as defined by Kendra Cherry 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.”
When we were children, we often learn that “what is good is beautiful, and the bad, is ugly.” Every day we often judge people by their attractiveness and appearance, and we are judged in return. Consequentially, our first impression of that individual affects how we view the target holistically. The manifestation of the halo effect is a realm of logic. However, research has shown that we automatically assign favorable traits to good-looking individuals such as talent, honest, kindness and intelligent (Langlois et al., 2000). Assessing an individual based on their appearance and physical attractiveness can be favorable to one and yet detrimental to another individual’s personality.
The effect of attractiveness are strong and pervasive (Tartaglia et al., 2015). Physical attractiveness is notably advantageous for both children and adult in almost all domain (Langloi et al., 2000). Research by Langlois et al., also suggests that attractive children were mostly associated with popularity and moderately associated with intelligence and adjustment, which is consistent with good-genes theory. However, several studies demonstrated that “what is good is beautiful” creates a perceived link between appearances and personality (Tartaglia et al., 2015). Attractive individuals are assessed as having the big five-factor model of personality which are; less introverted and neurotic, emotionally stable, agreeable, and open-minded than unattractive targets (Tartaglia et al., 2015). Nonetheless, behavioral traits such as occupational success, physical and mental health, popularity, dating experience, social skills are desirable qualities of assessing an individual based on their appearance.
While researching, I came across pinkmirror.com. An online makeover and photo retouching website. They had put on a blog for “analysis of facial attractiveness.” Not to discredit them, but to show that the media now has a way of scoring people based on how attractive they are. Although physical attractiveness may have resulted in a broadly favorable impression of personality, it is damaging to other aspects. Attractiveness is detrimental for women applying for masculine jobs for which physical appearance is perceived to be unimportant (Johnson et al., 2010). For example, if a female carpenter comes to your house looking like she is about to read the 6 O’clock news, would you believe her to be skilled in carpentry? At this point, your biases act up, and you begin to suspect if she is who you think she is.
In sum, attractiveness leads perceivers to make reliable inferences about personality goodness. Consequentially, attractive and unattractive targets tend to develop differential behaviors and traits as a result of differential evaluation and treatment. However, this behavior affects people’s specific expectations by creating characteristics of the target.
Johnson S., K, Podratz K., E, Dipboye R., L, Gibbons E (2010). Physical Attractiveness Biases In Ratings of Employment Suitability: Tracking Down the “Beauty is Beastly” Effect. J Soc Psychol; 150(3):301-18.
Langlois J., H, Kalakanis L, Rubenstein A., J, Larson A, Hallam M, Smoot M 2000. Maxims or Myths of Beauty? A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review. Psychol Bull; 126(3):390-423.
Tartaglia, S., & Rollero, C. (2015). The Effects of Attractiveness and Status on Personality Evaluation. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 11(4), 677–690.
Talamas, S. N., Mavor, K. I., & Perrett, D. I. (2016). Blinded By Beauty: Attractiveness Bias And Accurate Perceptions Of Academic Performance. Plos One, 11(2), E0148284.