Graeme Newell

The Halo Effect

The HALO EFFECT is our brain’s little shortcut for efficiently remembering the zillions of people who parade through our lives. Unfortunately, all our brains are inherently lazy. So when our overtaxed cranium evaluates new people, it isn’t really looking for a nuanced profile of that person. Our brain prefers a mere top-line analysis so that it can get back to binge watching cat videos.

So when our brain starts categorizing a new person, it franticly looks to find a single overarching trait that it can use as a pervasive label. For example:

He’s a jerk.
She’s a genius.
He’s anti-social.

Our love of stereotyping lures us to go ALL IN or ALL OUT on other people’s abilities. For example, “She’s FANTASTIC at everything,” or “He’s TERRIBLE at everything.”

This is why we often believe that someone who’s good at one thing is equally skilled at completely unrelated things:

“She’s a great dancer, therefore she must be meticulous.” No, she may just be naturally coordinated.

“He’s a kind father so he must be an ethical person.” No, loving one’s children does not make them ethical.

So how can you beat the HALO EFFECT? The secret is to purposefully balance out your summary judgments.

So if you admire someone, don’t whitewash their entire personality with good. Purposefully identify negative traits. For example:

“She’s so charming, but she lacks focus and is unreliable.”

Got someone you hate? Intentionally find good traits:

“He’s really shallow, but I can’t deny he’s a hard worker.”

Actively seeking out a balanced identity is the secret to avoiding the HALO EFFECT.