Halo Effect – Don’t let your eyes fool you!

Hey everyone! Chris Dyer here again. And we are going to talk more about cognitive biases today. In fact, we’re going to talk about the Halo Effect. This one’s really interesting because it’s something we really need to think about inside of our work, inside of our lives, and it’s also something you might be able to take advantage of as well.

So, what is the Halo Effect? Well, kind of simply put, it’s this idea that you can start with people, right? So we think attractive people are more successful, that they’re smarter. We sort of look at something that we think is good, and have this immediate positive reaction about it. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true, right? A successful person and a good-looking person are not necessarily tied together. And yet, if we make very quick judgements about somebody, and we look at them and they look attractive or they look a certain way, we immediately can have a positive assumption about them. This also happens inside of products. This is why car dealers or car manufacturers have these concept cars or these really flashy things that you might look at. This is why if we have a particular brand we like, like if you like Apple or you like a particular car, if they come out with something new, you immediately assume it’s going to be good because you have a good assumption about them.

Now, this can work, this can be a good way to remember all cognitive biases are kind of a shortcut for our brains. We think this about something and it helps us get to another point very quickly. So for a product or something, if we trust Apple, and they come out with a new product, we might be more willing to try that and not have to do all this research as to whether or not it’s going to be a good idea for us. But when it comes to people, this really can get in the way.

If we think about this at work, are we hiring people and moving people along inside of the recruiting process if they look one way versus another? If they meet our expectations for what someone who’s good-looking seems like? Are we promoting people, are we giving people projects and advancements inside of our organizations, who look good as opposed to our high performers?

This is a great thing for us as a remote organization like my company because we’re not seeing people every day making these sort of subconscious judgements based on how they look. We’re making judgements based on their performance. But most work is still done on site or in an office, which means the Halo Effect impacts career trajectory for many people.

The opposite of the Halo Effect is another video I’ll do, where people make negative assumptions about others based on how they look. Obviously this is a bad thing, but everyone can take advantage of it to some degree. That’s why we wear nice clothes to a job interview. It’s why we comb our hair, and put on makeup, or do whatever we’re going to do to look our best in a situation so we make a good impression. We’re not going to be able to erase all of this negative bias and all this potential problems associated with it, but remember that in situations where people will make assumptions about you, looking your best will have an impact on whether or not you’re going to get that job, or get that promotion that you want.

So, it’s sort of a ying and yang here, right? Biases are not good or accurate, so we have to make sure that we think about them and we’re aware of how they impact various situations.

Talk about this with your leaders and other team members and ask them how they think this might be impacting your organization. How could your company get better by not making assumptions or decisions based on the looks of people or the reputation of particular products or vendors? Break that down and you’ll be able to make better decisions for you and the people you hire.