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Mental Models Weekly - Issue #11 - The Halo Effect 😇

The Halo Effect is a mental model brought to you by the discipline of psychology. It's a cognitive bi
Mental Models Weekly
Mental Models Weekly - Issue #11 - The Halo Effect 😇
By Mental Models Weekly • Issue #11 • View online
The Halo Effect is a mental model brought to you by the discipline of psychology. It’s a cognitive bias, and it’s infused in our day to day interactions much more than we might like to admit! However, don’t despair - this bias is easier to spot that most… 😇

What is The Halo Effect?
Researcher Edward Thorndike is generally credited with coining the term back in the 1920’s. He observed that:
In a study made in 1915 of employees of two large industrial corporations, it appeared that the estimates of the same man in a number of different traits such as intelligence, industry, technical skill, reliability, etc., were very highly correlated and very evenly correlated.
It seemed that if an employee were judged highly on one good trait, then they’d be more likely to be judged highly on another good trait! His finding led to this definition:
The halo effect refers to an error in reasoning where an impression formed due to a single trait is allowed to influence ratings of unrelated factors.
In other words, we have a tendency to view others holistically - that is, as all good, or all bad. If someone does well in a certain area, we have a tendency to think they will automatically do well in another area, regardless of whether the areas are related! The opposite also holds true, one bad trait can influence our judgement of other traits - this is often referred to as the reverse halo effect.
Politics is a good place to look for examples. I can recall seeing some pretty extreme halo (and reverse halo) effects around Obama in his early years, and more recently around Trump. In reality - it’s highly unlikely that everything about Trump is “good” (halo effect) or everything about Trump is “bad” (reverse halo effect).
Photo by Stephen Mayes
Photo by Stephen Mayes
Internalizing the model 🧠
Can you see where you might be affected by the halo effect or reverse halo effect in your life? Or can you notice the halo effect in any media you consume? (I noticed some examples in the news media, and also thought about how the entertainment industry has a lot of movies and tv shows are based on that goodies vs baddies plot lines!)
Want to go deeper?
👍This longer write up touches on a whole load of bias in business - The halo effect, and other managerial delusions.
🎥 Do you recall Susan Boyle’s performance on TV show Britain’s Got Talent? (Note the reverse halo effect - negative judgements made about her singing ability based on her appearance.)
Got comments?
I’m loving hearing your thoughts and reflections on the models, by both email 📧 - just hit reply - and via twitter - 🐦@juliaclavien!
Did you enjoy this issue?
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