Halo Effect: “What is beautiful is good” and Personality Evaluation.

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.



18 thoughts on “Halo Effect: “What is beautiful is good” and Personality Evaluation.

  1. Great blog! We’ve all heard of “never judge a book by its cover” but unfortunately we’ve conformed to society’s cognitive bias of judging someone by his/her appearance. We all been in situations where we judge someone and later hear that the person is very smart or wealthy. The normally response we give is “but he/she doesn’t look”. So the fact that something looks good doesn’t mean it’s actually good and the fact that something looks bad doesn’t mean it’s bad. ‘All that glitter is not gold”. On this note, I urge us to consciously try to control our cognitive biases on people and issues and rather choose to have an open-minded approach to everything. Like you said in your blog prejudging someone affects the relationship that is built where one party holds back and it goes further to destroy relationships that could have been worthwhile.


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  2. This was a very interesting read. I think it strongly ties in to what I mentioned in my blog First Impressions. The brain forms impressions in about 100 milliseconds, and is quickest to decide the levels of an individual’s attractiveness and trustworthiness. This is exactly why, as you mentioned, we choose to sit with a certain individual upon entering a bus. In his article How Many Seconds to a First Impression? Eric Wargo explains that “Like it or not, judgments based on facial appearance play a powerful role in how we treat others, and how we get treated. Psychologists have long known that attractive people get better outcomes in practically all walks of life.” (Wargo 2006). Attractive people will have more people sit next to them, giving them more friendships, larger social boundaries, which leads to higher popularity, and a better quality of life (in most cases).

    Wargo, E. How Many Seconds to a First Impression? Retrieved from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/how-many-seconds-to-a-first-impression. 2006.

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  3. I would first off like to say that I find this topic fascinating. It honestly makes me immediately think of the popular girls or guys that every high school seems to have who may not actually be that nice, but still somehow manage to have tons of friends. Although these individuals may have a lot of friends, I would be interested to know if the friendships were anything more than just superficial ones or if they were actually good people if their looks were not taken into consideration. While it is true that attractive individuals are more likely to be successful and popular, research has also found that more attractive males can get away with violating social norms to a greater extent than non-attractive ones (Gibson & Gore, 2016). I feel like this may be part of the reason why the individuals mentioned above were able to not necessarily be very nice but still had plenty of friends. It may be the case that because they are attractive other individuals are willing to overlook their negative actions that violate social norms, like cutting to the front of the lunch line or bullying other students. Not saying that every attractive person I went to high school with was like this, but there were definitely some whom the halo effect was evident in. However, I may just be biased and completely off base here, but I do think that there are signs of this effect in schools.

    Gibson, J. L., & Gore, J. S. (2016). Is he a hero or a weirdo? How norm violations influence the halo effect. Gender Issues, 33(4), 299-310. doi: 10.1007/s12147-016-9173-6

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  4. This is an interesting read. Immediately after reading your post I thought about politicians. Traditionally, (with the exception of the current president of the United States) it seems as though voters choose politicians based on the ‘halo effect’. More physically attractive political leaders appear to have more power over the people. They look polished so we believe that they will be able to do the job properly. We show this belief by voting for them, much like students vote for popular and attractive student council presidents in high schools (especially in the movies). I also found a review in The New York Times that suggested a link between attractiveness and health. The article mentioned that people vote for more attractive people because they look more healthy, and healthy leaders are more desirable (again, this doesn’t seem to be the case for the current president of the United States). So is it just the attractiveness of a person that is appealing to us, or is it also what the attractiveness could symbolize?

    Palmer, C. Peterson, R. (2017). Effects of Physical Attractiveness on Political Beliefs. Politics and the Life Sciences, 36(2), 3-16. Retrieved from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/politics-and-the-life-sciences/article/effects-of-physical-attractiveness-on-political-beliefs/D5214D0CAE37EE5947B7BF29762547EE/core-reader.

    White, A. Kendrick, D. (2013). Why Attractive Candidates Win. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/opinion/sunday/health-beauty-and-the-ballot.html.

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  5. First of all, this topic is outstanding. Secondly, I am as guilty as the realness of this blog. I remember in elementary school when a teacher asks a question and everyone puts their hands up, whether they know the answer or not; but somehow the teacher still points at that one student they think is dull to answer the question. What then happens when they get the answer right? I always, always, all the time go to rate my professor even before my class registration begins. Why is that? because i don’t want a “not so nice teacher”. Halo effects are most likely to occur when people employ rapid, automatic and constructive processing but disappear when judges process more elaborately (Forgas, 2011). For instance, you walk into a class unaware that your professor had been switched, you see this young woman in her mid twenties telling everyone to be quiet; what would be your first thought as well as your reaction when she finally introduces herself.

    Forgas, J. P. (2011). She just doesnt look like a philosopher…? Affective influences on the halo effect in impression formation. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41(7), 812-817. doi:10.1002/ejsp.842

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    1. Thanks! Halo effect also plays a significant role in academics as you illustrated. To answer your question about a professor in her mid-twenties: I would probably ignore her at first. Because I have an image of what a typical professor looks like and seeing that she does not fit into that image, my biases would set in, and I would begin to doubt who she presented herself to be.


  6. Hey,

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic. I agree with you when you say “In sum, attractiveness leads perceivers to make reliable inferences about personality goodness.” I also find this topic to be interesting because it is completely true that there is a halo bias that comes into play. When I tried to think of examples, it took me back to gym class in grade school, where the gym teacher would always choose the more athletic kids to do certain activities, or to be picked first for activities, whereas the children who the teacher saw as ‘less fit’ without necessarily trying to hard to try and motivate them, rather chose the children they viewed as more athletic. Conversely, I had a social teacher who once marked almost every one of my assignments at a 70% as well as my friends, but certain kids would always get 90% and I could never understand why when my work was much better than theirs at times. Later we had another teacher come in to the picture when the one went on mat leave, short version- my mark greatly increased, and some students marks quickly decreased. I feel that this plays into the “what is good is beautiful” saying that creates a perceived link between appearances and personality (Tartaglia et al., 2015). I look forward to reading more!

    Tartaglia, S., & Rollero, C. (2015). The Effects of Attractiveness and Status on Personality Evaluation. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 11(4), 677–690.

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  7. This is super interesting! I didn’t realize this phenomenon had a name. One thing in regards to this idea that I think I personally deal with is that given the way my face looks without expression, people think I am mean… I have a resting bitch face. I have had countless people say “I was scared of you before I met you” or other things along those lines. As well as striking fear in people, with an unintentional look, I believe it also influences my behaviour greatly. I found myself being meaner and meaner, because that is what people expected of me given the fact that I guess I look mean. How do you think the perception of a person from others could effect that person? Do you think it does have an effect?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I can relate to you on your experience. To answer your question; I think peoples perception of us can affect our personality. We tend to alter our behaviour according to what people say about us. For example, you stated above that “I found myself being meaner and meaner because that is what people expected of me.” Unconsciously, we accept and retain that character because we start to believe it is who we are.


  8. Interesting blog! I enjoy reading your blog. I find halo effect very interesting, and this got me thinking about self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-fulfilling Prophecy is a prediction that causes itself to come true due to the simple fact that the prediction was made. This happens because our beliefs influence our actions. For example, when a teacher assumes that a certain student is not intelligent, the teacher might give that student less positive attention and more negative attention, resulting in poorer performance by the student.Being aware of self-fulfilling prophecies however is all it takes to start using them effectively and avoiding their potentially negative implications, and by changing your beliefs to more positive ones you can start to affect real positive change in your life. Click on the link below to learn more about self-fulfilling prophecy.


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  9. Great post! I did some brief research on this subject last semester and I found that it also effected how people learn. In a controversial study done by Thomas Dee, he found that males learn better from males and females learn better from females. His study found drastic levels of evidence supporting that the gender of the teacher played a large role in the success levels of the opposite gender in the class. Females were clearly more successful in science, social studies and english when taught by a female teacher, unfortunately the males marks in the class did suffer.


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  10. This is an extremely interesting topic that I honestly never thought too deeply about. Why is it that the mean girl in TV show and movie portrayals are idolized by everyone at the school because they seem so “nice” and like they are a “great person” when they are actually just attractive and mean? This would probably explain that. After reading this, I also thought about the idea that we are a pretty trusting species and so if we see an attractive person then would we automatically trust them to be good? This thought reminded me of narcissists who believe themselves to be more attractive, and project themselves as more attractive even though they only really look out for and care about themselves. This would mean that someone who is attractive, would be a narcissist, and in my mind that is not good. In both Jauk et al. (2016), and Rauthmann and Kolar (2013), they found that narcissists were perceived to be attractive individuals. The other dark triad characteristics were not correlated to attractiveness, however, so I guess not everything bad can be seen as attractive. What do you think about the idea that the narcissism is correlated with attractiveness? I am sure this is not the fact in every case (aka narcissist Donald Trump), but it is an interesting thought.
    Jauk, E., Neubauer, A. C., Mairunteregger, T., Pemp, S., Sieber, K. P., & Rauthmann, J. F. (2016). How Alluring Are Dark Personalities? The Dark Triad and Attractiveness in Speed Dating. European Journal of Personality,30(2), 125-138. doi:10.1002/per.2040
    Rauthmann, J. F., & Kolar, G. P. (2013). The perceived attractiveness and traits of the Dark Triad: Narcissists are perceived as hot, Machiavellians and psychopaths not. Personality and Individual Differences,54(5), 582-586. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2012.11.005

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    1. Thanks! In my opinion, I would think there is an association between narcissism and attractiveness. Park and Colvin also suggest that narcissism is positively related to self-rated intelligence, physical attractiveness.

      Park, S. W., & Colvin, C. R. (2014). Narcissism and Discrepancy between Self and Friends’ Perceptions of Personality. Journal of Personality, 82(4), 278–286.


  11. Great blog! To add to your definition the halo effect is error in reasoning in which an impression formed from a single trait or characteristic is allowed to influence multiple judgments or ratings of unrelated factors (Britta Neugaard, 2016). While reading your blog i could not help but think of the saying “all that glitters is not gold” and i’ll like to relate it to the social media world right now. We scroll down our various timelines and see interest post such as beautiful women, people’s “perfect’ relationship and lives and suddenly envy them and assume their lives are perfect especially with celebrities which we generally believe a good or nice people. Also, when we meet say an attractive woman we instantly assume she carries all the characteristics of a good woman or a “wife material”. I found a couple of articles you might be interested in with one talking about how subconsciously we fall for the halo effect.



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  12. First impressions matter, for both positive and negative reasons. They are positive when you like someone upon your first contact; they are negative when the first meeting or encounter is not so pleasant. Positive first impressions lead to social cohesion; negative first impressions lead to biases and social prejudice. First impressions matter but substance has the final word

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