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  • Writer's pictureElise Braunschweiger

The Halo Effect

From resumes to romances, this cognitive bias influences more than you think

ha·lo ef·fect

/ˈhālō əˈfekt,ēˈfekt/

noun

noun: halo effect; plural noun: halo effects


the tendency for an impression created in one area to influence opinion in another area.



There are a number of cognitive biases and mental blind spots that impact our ability to effectively select compatible, emotionally-available partners. One of the most notable is that of the Halo Effect. Essentially, our brains are constantly trying to interpret incoming information. In their attempt to do this quickly, they create probable assumptions informed by our prior experiences.


Sometimes, our brain is being adaptive in applying these principles but other times, we’re getting it wrong. 

First identified in 1972 by researchers Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, we’ve now defined a number of different types of cognitive biases that impact our overall decision-making, perception, social behavior, cognition, and more. The Halo Effect in particular occurs when our positive impressions of someone in one area lead us to view them positively in other areas.


One of the most common manifestations of this effect that I see as a date coach is with attraction. People are often less critical and more forgiving with highly attractive people, making positive assumptions without evidence to support them - i.e. “they seem charismatic,” “she looks like she has her life together,” “he seems successful.” Just because someone is genetically gifted doesn’t mean that they are necessarily more charismatic, kinder, more skilled, or more intelligent than the next person! But this can have major implications, and not just in the realm of dating and relationships. In fact, one study published by the National Library of Medicine suggested that attractive people earned 12% to 17% more than less attractive people, despite the same productivity.


A good way to catch this while dating is to incorporate mindfulness and to cultivate awareness around why you like someone. Are you swooning because they’re dressed to perfection, and it seems like they have it all together? Bring attention to what specifically caught your eye and be mindful of allowing your positive perception of one trait influence another.


They might know how to style an outfit, but that’s not necessarily evidence of responsibility or stability - look for the evidence.

It's important to maintain a cautious optimism when dating. You can continue to gather information about someone you've recently met without falling prey to cynicism - that balance can exist! And if you feel like your blind spots are getting in the way of your dating, please don't hesitate to schedule a consultation with our team. It's complimentary and we're happy to help you brain storm, identify potential solutions, and connect you with available resources.

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