Halo Effect


In psychology, the "halo effect" refers to a psychological tendency where the impression of a person in one area carries over to another area.

The tendency was first identified and named by psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920. In his research, he observed that people seen positively in one light tend to be assumed to have positive attributes in another area.

If you’re a tall, good looking man, you’re perceived to be smarter than average — even if you haven't opened your mouth to say anything yet.

The field of psychology is filled with a century's worth of academic research on these kinds of cognitive biases.

In short, human beings are not objective creatures. They are very much subjective.

The halo effect also works in reverse — something I term the “negative halo effect.”

If you’re perceived in a negative light, you’re often (unfairly) perceived negatively in other areas too.

If you’re shy, quieter or more introverted, in many Western cultures you’re perceived as less intelligent, less capable and less competent.

If you’re a woman or a minority, you’re often perceived as less intelligent and less skilled.

If you’ve made a mistake in one area of your work, you’re often perceived as being prone to mistakes in all areas of your work.

The halo effect cuts both ways. It’s useful to be mindful of which side of the halo effect line you’re standing on.

Do you get a positive benefit of the doubt on your thoughts, ideas and contributions in the workplace? Or a negative one?

The halo effect (positive or negative) is one of the psychological drivers behind gravitas. Gravitas refers to how seriously other people take your ideas.

One simple way to improve your gravitas is to be more likable by your colleagues. One factor that drives likability is familiarity and similarity.

A very simple way to be more familiar and more similar is to spend time with your coworkers in social settings.

In short, meet with them for lunch and talk about things outside of work. Try to find what you have in common with each other.

The more your colleagues see you as a whole, multi-dimensional person, with whom they share many things in common, the more they will like you. The more they like you, the more positive the halo effect (or the more you offset a negative halo effect).

If you found this post useful, you’ll be interested in learning about my recent class, How to Develop Gravitas for Extreme Career Success.

I've released all my teaching from this comprehensive class as a program. You can have the opportunity to learn about more than a dozen techniques to improve your gravitas that I teach. Just go to my How to Develop Gravitas page to be notified about the next release.

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