Is the film Ugly a bit misguided

What is the Halo Effect?

Can we judge objectively? Or unconsciously straddles ours psyche in between when we judge people, companies or an advertisement? Why is physical attractiveness so much stronger than inner beauty? Why is advertising perceived more positively on a high-quality website than in low-quality environments? Studies answer this "mystery" with the Halo effect, one Perceptual error, to which we will devote a little more detail in this article.

Hello? Halo effect? What is that supposed to be?

"I can feel your halo (halo) halo" sang Beyoncé about her great love in 2009 and already gave her one with the titlegloriole above. The result: the Grammy Award for “Best Female Vocal Performance - Pop”, the MTV European Music Award 2009 in the “Best Song” category and countless top chart placements in various countries including Germany. Of course, the term does not have its origin in music, but in social psychology.

Frederic L. Wells watched the "Yard effect“As early as 1907 and the American psychologistEdward Lee Thorndike later gave this misguided perception the name "halo effect". Along withGordon Allport, which is mainly found in the Personality psychology made a name, Thorndike described the halo effect in detail, based on her own psychological studies. The origin of the effect does not describe anything else than that distorted perception of a human, based on a individual property or individual characteristics.

Means: A single salient or first perceived quality can ensure that you are celebrated or that you indulge in a shadowy existence. Although this is not a completely correct definition, it describes the effect quite well. Since I'm a fan of recognizable examples, here are a few - I hope you find something suitable for you:

Melanie got better and better grades

You probably remember moments at school when a classmate (the latter probably more often - the halo effect says hello) got a better grade than you did in the essay. For example Melanie: long medium-blonde hair, always an angel smile on her face and always good grades. Always. The teachers loved her. The other girls tend to be less. Except for those who wanted to bask in their halo. Today these friends are called, at least in English, DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Of course, this is not literally true - don't get it wrong. Let's keep in mind that Melanie was just a pretty person and made an incredibly personable impression.

The first impression gained has the greatest weight and if you are lucky, you will not or hardly notice all the defects, errors and other negative properties that come to light as a result. If the positive impression that a student makes on the teacher is confirmed by his / her expectation, then one speaks of Pygmalion effect. How it works is well described in this video. And so surely each of you got to hear from your parents: "Make sure that you look well-groomed and always remember: The first impression counts.

Of course, you have to constantly maintain and polish this positive first impression (your halo) so that it does not tarnish. Such as …

... Felix, the blender

Stefan had no idea how Felix did it, but after only six months with the company he was driving a Mercedes SLK and his salary was definitely higher. If his actual performance had been the reason ... But the man just marketed himself well. The rest of the team was primarily responsible for working - and doing so effectively and efficiently. Above all, Felix scored with the fact that he was handsome, confident and always impeccably dressed. Whether in a tailor-made suit or in jeans, shirt and sweater with a V-neck - he always left a dazzling impression and mastered the self-marketing from the FF. The boss thought his appearance was great, promoted him and colleague Stefan was left behind.

But can a single feature really influence the perception of another person so strongly that other features fall behind completely and thus make an objective assessment almost impossible? Yes it can. And also in a negative sense:

It's Kevin's fault

There is always a bogeyman. You surely know the statement. I hope you were never meant by that. Unfortunately, Kevin does. He was on the small side, liked to eat sweet and greasy food, was correspondingly chubby and, moreover, rarely opened his mouth when an adult spoke to him. However, behind these perceived traits and traits hid a nice but very shy boy who just wanted to belong. Kevin was always there for every nonsense the kids did in the yard. Regardless of whether they fired pebbles at imaginary targets on the house walls with self-made slings, played doorbell cleaners or let loads of spiders move in through the tilted bathroom window at Ms. Meier's, Kevin was there. When they were discovered doing their pranks, it was usually “Oh, Kevin. Who else!"

Kevin suffered - in addition to the first visual impression - from another characteristic that outshines his other positive characteristics: his name. The name "Kevin", which unfortunately got a lot of boys after the successful film "Kevin - Alone at Home" after 1990, doesn't have a good reputation at all. Children with this name were often labeled as “underperforming” or even “having behavioral problems”. The Oldenburg educational scientist Prof. Dr. Astrid Kaiser and Julia Kube from the “Laboratory for Child Research”. You can read more about it here.

Let's summarize the halo effect

Various characteristics or known properties can have a lasting positive or negative influence on further perception and expectations of a person. With such a perception error, attractive people are more likely to be expected to perform exceptionally well than unattractive ones. The appearance or some other distinctive feature z. B. can therefore be used for a so-called "cognitive bias“Worry about our perception. This fact has a significant impact as it changes our expectations of the person, their behavior and the overall impression they leave behind.

That can be the origin, the age, the name or the reputation that one has (consciously or unconsciously) in his personal or professional environment. A such, first perceived or transmitted Feature can outshine everything else and make us blind to previously unknown characteristics of the other person.

A name with negative connotations, a rather unkempt appearance, certain characteristics, a simple social background, a valued friend who does not like the person or simply a bad first impression can counter the opposite of the halo effect, the Horn effect (also known as the “devil horn effect”). Even children are sometimes divided into stereotypes from which it is difficult for them to free themselves later (see Kevin). Incidentally, these stereotypes are reinforced by the media: beautiful = good. But they can also be found in history, in fairy tales and stories (heroes, good fairies or princesses were always beautiful) and are always passed on in this way.

Can such an effect also be influenced?

It is exciting to know that the potential to be “blinded” or influenced - whether by a person or an advertisement - has a few dependencies. Petty, Cacioppo and Goldman found this out back in 1981 in an experiment with 145 students. When assessing z. B. A statement, my opinion is influenced by whether I am tired and not very motivated. Also, whether the statement comes from an expert or, for example, from a student and how many arguments are presented to me can change my answer.

If you find the whole thing exciting: On YouTube there are two series by graduate psychologist Eskil Burck with very well explanatory videos on the halo effect and the so-called "Elaboration Likelihood Model", which also shed light on a lot of studies:

One another factor with a lot of influence on the results of studies describes the Hawthorne Effect:
Participants in group-based studies are aware that they are taking part in one. This can also influence natural behavior. In the studies at the Hawthorne Works (Illinois, USA), this knowledge resulted in consistently higher productivity, regardless of how the working conditions were changed.

Another question has a particularly strong influence on my judgment and my actions: Is the topic currently for me at all relevant? A wonderful transition to another question:

Does the halo effect have an impact on advertising effectiveness?

If we look at the various studies on the subject in recent years, definitely. Last made IAS (Integral Ad Science) this year with "The Halo Effect - ad environment and receptivity" aware of oneself. In their study, they examined the perception of advertising in different environments with the help of measurements of the activities of the individual brain regions. Result: Advertising in high quality environments is perceived more positively per se than advertising in negative or poor quality environments (bad ads). In addition, IAS has determined that the The relevance of the advertising message for the consumer is more important than ever is.

From our point of view, these are not new findings, but of course we are happy if they slowly gain acceptance. Because the more relevant the advertising message is for me, the more I'm inclined to click on the advertising material and - if everything goes according to the advertiser's interests - even to buy something.

In a follow-up article I will question whether and how the halo effect can actually be used as such in online marketing and take a closer look at the issue of advertising effectiveness. Until then!

Friederike Scholz

As Head of Product, Frieda takes care of the further development and networking of the tools we use. She mainly brings her expertise to bear in articles on online advertising. In addition, Frieda's great anecdotes are an enrichment for every lunch break.

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