The 'Halo Effect'

We see a great-looking guy or gal, and believe them to be just as great on the inside as on the outside. Then, ouch! Reality hits.

halo effect (photo credit: Courtesy)
halo effect
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The “Halo Effect” is a term coined by scientists to explain that when something looks good on the surface, we tend to broaden the scope of that positive judgment to include other characteristics.
The Halo Effect is incredibly prevalent in dating, and it works like this: We see someone we’re attracted to, and therefore believe them to be just as great on the inside as they are on the outside. Oftentimes, we subconsciously convince ourselves that this other person must be an all-around great guy or gal simply because they have thick hair, shining eyes and a bright smile.
Con artists also tend to have these physical characteristics, which is why they are so successful at getting people to trust them.
In the dating world, we call con artists “players,” people who know others are falling hard for them and don’t feel the same way – yet still choose to play with those others’ hearts and minds until they tire of the game and move on to the next victim. They know they can reel someone in and do so, just for the fun of it.
My first experience with a player occurred at Jewish sleep-away camp in my late teens. There was a guy there named Jonny, who knew he was hot stuff – gorgeous, smooth talker, the works. Jonny knew girls melted at the sight of his smile, and took advantage of it. He always got out of doing grunt work with a little flirtation and made the female counselors swoon at his every request.
I knew all this about Jonny, yet still entered into a relationship with him. And, of course, I got burned in the end. Jonny’s Halo Effect was so commanding that even when you went in armed and prepared, he was still able to use his finesse to get his way, not caring whom he hurt in the long run.
The Halo Effect in dating doesn’t always mean the guy or gal is a player; it could also mean you’re blindsided by their good looks and aren’t willing to admit to their faults.
I was so flattered by the flirtations of a tall, gorgeous, straight-off-the-pagesof- a-Calvin-Klein-underwear-ad-looking guy (Jewish too!) named Alex that I failed to notice he had nothing going on between the ears.
Alex had relied on his looks to get ahead in life, and was severely lacking in brainpower. He didn’t get simple jokes, he had no idea what was going on in politics, and his conversational skills were pathetic. He was “arm candy” and nothing more… though I admit it did take some time for me to come to terms with the reality that he was just not husband material.
AFTER MY experiences with Jonny and Alex, I felt I knew enough to avoid these losers in the future. But that’s the thing about the Halo Effect – it creates a mental roadblock in your subconscience to temporarily paralyze your brain and stop you reasoning logically.
Think about what you would do if you were to meet your celebrity crush. Actors, athletes and musicians are often misunderstood because people assume them to be the character they have created on screen, on the field or on stage. Their celebrity status gives them a halo as well since we think they know them personally, when in fact we haven’t the slightest idea who they really are.
It’s also why celebrities tend to get away with it when they get into trouble – we don’t want to think of our favorite character from that award-winning TV show as a bad guy, right?
Time and time again, we pass judgment – good, bad or indifferent – on people before getting to know them, and sometimes get hurt in the time it takes to correct our initial impression.
It’s happened to me over and over again: in high school, in college, in my mid-20s and even recently in non-dating situations: I would be automatically drawn, without hesitation, to the man I considered to be the best-looking guy in the room. And each time I would kick myself after the fact for allowing myself to fall for a guy based solely on his looks and my stupidity in concluding, before getting to know him, that he must therefore be a serious, smart, stand-up guy.
Sometimes, as in the case of “S,” the great-looking guys did also happen to be serious, smart, stand-up guys… but in those instances I actually took the time to get to know them before making any assumptions.
Not all good-looking people are jerks, and not all average (or less than average) people are perfect citizens. We simply have to take the time to get to know someone and avoid snap judgments.
This is the reason we see couples in which one partner is very obviously better- looking – because each took the time to get to know the other and didn’t base his or her opinions on looks but on a built-up attraction stemming from a deeper level.
Looks fade, personality doesn’t.