What is the HALO Effect?

The halo effect (also called the halo error) is the tendency for positive impressions of a person, company, brand or product in one area to positively influence one's opinion or feelings in other areas. Halo effect is “the name given to the phenomenon whereby evaluators tend to be influenced by their previous judgments of performance or personality. The halo effect which is a cognitive bias can possibly prevent someone from accepting a person, or a product or a brand based on the idea of an unfounded belief on which is good or bad.


The term was coined by Edward Thorndike. A simplified example of the halo effect is when an individual noticing that the person in the photograph is attractive, well groomed, and properly attired, assumes, using a mental heuristic, that the person in the photograph is a good person based upon the rules of that individual's social concept. This constant error in judgment is reflective of the individual's preferences, prejudices, ideology, aspirations, and social perception 


The halo effect was originally identified in 1907 by the American psychologist Frederick L. Wells (1884-1964).[35] However, it was only officially recognized in 1920 with empirical evidence provided by the psychologist Edward Thorndike(1874-1949).[35] Edward Thorndike was the first to say the halo effect is a specific cognitive bias in which one aspect of the person, brand, product, or institution affects one's thoughts or judgment of the entity's other aspects or dimensions.[36] Thorndike, an early behaviorist, was an important contributor to the study of the psychology of learning. He gave the phenomenon its name in his 1920 article "A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings".[4] In "Constant Error", Thorndike set out to replicate the study in hopes of pinning down the bias that he thought was present in these ratings. Subsequent researchers have studied it in relation to attractiveness and its bearing on the judicial and educational systems.[16] Thorndike originally coined the term referring only to people; however, its use has been greatly expanded especially in the area of brand marketing.


The halo effect is a perception distortion (or cognitive bias) that affects the way people interpret the information about someone that they have formed a positive gestalt (way people form impressions of others) with. It is a type of immediate judgement discrepancy where a person making an initial assessment of another person, place, or thing will assume ambiguous information based upon strong information. The halo effect is an evaluation by an individual and can affect the perception of a decision, action, idea, business, person, group, entity, or other whenever concrete data is generalised or influences ambiguous information. 


The term halo effect is used in marketing to explain customer bias toward certain products because of favorable experience with other products made by the same company. It is used in the part of brand marketing called "line extensions." One common halo effect is when the perceived positive features of a particular item extend to a broader brand. A notable example is the manner in which the popularity of Apple's iPod generated enthusiasm for the corporation's other products. Advertising often makes use of television shows, movies and those who star in them, to promote products via halo effect.

In the automotive industry, exotic, limited production luxury models or low-volume sports cars made by a manufacturer's racing, motorsports, or in-house modification teams, are sometimes referred as "halo cars" for the effect they are intended to produce on selling other vehicles within the make.

Advertising in one channel has been shown to have a halo effect on advertising in another channel.

The term "halo effect" has also been applied to human rights organizations that have used their status to move away from their stated goals.


A person's attractiveness has also been found to produce a halo effect. Attractiveness provides a valuable aspect of the halo effect to consider because of its multifaceted nature; attractiveness may be influenced by several specific traits. These perceptions of attractiveness may affect judgments tied to personality traits. People perceived as being more attractive were more likely to be perceived as trustworthy and friendly. What this suggests is that perceptions of attractiveness may influence a variety of other traits, which supports the concept of the halo effect.

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