Home > Categorization, Cognitive Bias, Pattern Recognition > Being Extremely Good-Looking Benefits You – the Halo Effect

Being Extremely Good-Looking Benefits You – the Halo Effect

Abercrombie & Fitch models

You must have seen these charming male models in front of some Abercrombie and Fitch stores, right? Did you stop for a picture with them? Did they successfully allure you to walk in the store and carry a huge shopping bag on your way out? Well, if these two scenarios sound familiar to you, then you probably should have known the power of looking good. It is not hard to find comparable examples besides Abercrombie and Fitch in the real life. The faces of attractive Hollywood celebrities have invaded everywhere such as on posters and televisions. Why? Because their pretty faces are worth millions of dollars and they can lead you to buy anything! One evidence from a report on Fashionista shows that Puma has successfully increased its sales by 7.6 percent just because it invited Rihanna to be its brand ambassador and women’s creative director. Although you might be immune to the commercials and argue that “a book should not be judged by its cover”, you cannot deny that these good-looking people can at least please your aesthetic taste. Therefore, let me remind you again – be extremely good-looking – because it is highly possible that your attractiveness gets rewarded.

The halo effect – angel or damon

The underlying rationale of the value of beauty is called the halo effect. It refers to a phenomenon in which if we have an overall positive impression of someone, we are likely to have positive opinions about other aspects of that person, including personality, academic competence, etc. Wikipedia gives a more in-depth explanation if you are interested to know, click here. Among all the factors that influence the first impression, a higher physical attractiveness is the leading one that substantially promotes the halo effect. In other words, we tend to believe that those people who are physically more attractive have, for example, a higher perceived academic competence (Talamas, David, and Perrett, 2009). Moreover, the impacts of physical attractiveness on the halo effect extend to the topics of cognitive psychology such as stereotypes, pattern recognition, and categorizations. In addition, the social phenomenon caused by the halo effect can be explained by topics of cognitive psychology such as stereotypes, pattern recognition, and categorizations. In general, the halo effect is an everyday social phenomenon supported by a variety of cognitive processes.

Let’s first define what attractive physical features are. I am sure you have your own answer in mind. As psychologists, Zebrowitz and Franklin (2012) regarded the “babyface stereotype” as a kind of physical attractiveness. In general, according to the study by Zebrowitz and Montepare (2008), babyfaceness refers to infantile facial characters, including larger eyes, higher eyebrows, rounder faces, etc. Adults with these certain facial features tend to be perceived as submissive, gentle, and honest. In their study, the participants, divided into a young adult group (YA) and an older adult group (OA), were asked to rate the attractiveness, babyfaceness, competence, health, hostility, and untrustworthiness based on the facial stimuli of both young and old adults. TThe reason why the researchers linked attractiveness halo effect to the babyface stereotype was that both faces of high attractiveness and faces of more childlike features had higher scores on competence and health and lower scores on hostility and untrustworthiness. Just as discussed above, the cognitive explanation was that the higher attractiveness, which contributed to a strong positive halo effect, led the participants to have more positive opinions about people’s other characteristics, such as high competence and good health. Though not mentioned directly in the study, facial pattern recognition and categorizations played an important role in forming the attractiveness halo effect and the babyface stereotype. A less complicated definition of facial pattern recognition and categorizations is that when we see something, we tend to match the received visual information with the pre-existing knowledge in our memory to recognize it and understand it. Here is a more detailed explanation of pattern recognition in psychology. Among different kinds of pattern recognition, facial pattern recognition is unique because when people process faces, they do it holistically instead of analytically, which means people perceive a face as a whole rather than breaking a face down into parts. In this case, as we holistically view the childlike features, the illusion of a baby-face can activate our knowledge of babies and young children who are often considered non-hostile, healthy, competitive, and trustworthy and thus, an attractiveness halo effect is emerged. Therefore, why not try to look young and fresh? Looking young and thus more attractive probably can help you help you leave better impressions on others.

asymmetric vs. symmetric face

Another factor that influences physical attractiveness is how symmetrical a face is. According to the study by Švegar (2016) related to facial symmetry, it was demonstrated that the reason why people favored a symmetric face was that it could symbolize good health whereas an asymmetric face could not because it lacked in resistance to external stressors from both genes and the environment. Now you might have a sense of the reason why those attractive Hollywood stars have spent a million dollars on plastic surgeries that give them symmetric nose bridges and equally big eyes – these symmetric facial features may deliver an illusion of health to you. From a cognitive perspective, symmetric facial features have been pre-categorized and can be recognized as symbolic patterns of good health. Thus, the access to prior knowledge triggered the halo effect on more symmetric faces.

Potential Halo Effect in Classroom

Now, you might still wonder why I keep telling you to look good especially if you alert to the gimmicky halo effect used by firms and celebrities. You might want to ask if the halo effect is only about leaving good impressions and boosting sales, how would the halo effect be of any bigger importance in our life? In fact, influenced by the physical attractiveness, the halo effect can easily introduce a lot of biases, which might lead to unfair treatment or even discrimination. Imagine you are in a class with your classmates and your professor. Knowing that you are not engaging in a beauty contest so your appearance does not matter that much, do you think that your professor is completely unaffected by the halo effect and has no favoritism at all? From a psychological perspective, not really.

Talamas, David, and Perrett (2009) suggested that perceived academic performance is not insusceptible to the attractiveness halo effect. In their study, the participants were either asked to rate perceived intelligence, perceived academic performance, or perceived conscientiousness of the stimuli. They hypothesized that since high attractiveness could give people an illusion of good health and high intelligence, perceived conscientiousness would be the most accurate predictor of the actual academic performance because “intelligence” and “academic performance” contain a lot of ambiguity brought by attractiveness whereas the perceived conscientiousness controls for the attractiveness halo. The results revealed that perceived conscientiousness was indeed the best predictor, which further demonstrated that attractiveness could leave misleading impressions of your actual academic competence on your professors. Therefore, though your physical attraction does not seem that important in a classroom, your professors may not be completely immune to potential biases on your competence and even unfair favoritism.

If you like beer, you’ll like Schlity

Have I convinced you about the enchantment of looking good? I am not suggesting you spend time and money on things such as plastic surgeries because clearly, those are not real and totally deceptive. A lot of the times, an attractive person does not necessarily have completely symmetric or baby-looking face; things such as good health, a good body shape, high confidence can also leave us with healthy, competent and trustworthy impressions. Therefore, try to be as good-looking as possible – it will benefit you in ways that you have probably never noticed before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Brooke, E. (2015). Yes, Puma Is Spending A Lot of Money to Work With Rihanna. Retrieved from http://fashionista.com/2015/07/puma-q2-2015

Masip, J., Garrido, J., Herrero, C. (2004). Facial appearance and impressions of credibility: the effects of facial babyishness and age on person perception. International Journal of Psychology, 39 (4), 276–289.

Ostroff, C. & Ilgen, D.R. (1992). Cognitive categories of rater and the rating accuracy. Journal of Business and Psychology, 7, No. 1.

Švegar, D. (2016). What does facial symmetry reveal about health and personality? Polish Psychological Bulletin47(3), 356–365. doi:10.1515/ppb-2016-0042

Talamas, S. N., Mavor K. I., Perrett, D. I. (2016). Blinded by beauty: attractiveness bias and accurate perceptions of academic performance. PLOS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148284

Zebrowitz, L. A., Montepare, J. M. (2008). Social Psychological Face Perception: Why Appearance Matters. Soc Personal Psychol Compass, 2(3): 1497. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2008.00109.x

Zebrowitz, L.A. & Franklin, R.G. (2013). The attractiveness halo effect and the babyface stereotype in older and younger adults: similarities, own-age accentuation, and older adult positivity effects. Experimental Aging Research, 40, 375–393. doi: 10.1080/0361073X.2014.89715

Image sources

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/fashion/abercrombie-and-fitch-has-a-makeover.html?_r=0

http://www.notey.com/blogs/halo-effect?page=4

http://dev.null.org/blog/tags/beauty

http://www.ai-media.tv/visible-classroom-we-were-amazed-by-what-we-learnt-about-ourselves/

https://priceonomics.com/post/48869654882/being-really-really-ridiculously-good-looking

  1. bjfanu20
    April 20th, 2017 at 15:48 | #1

    Your connections between the Halo Effect and categorization interest me, especially since I studied the Cheerleader Effect (in which people in groups are seen as more attractive due to being in a group). The literature is lacking the confluence between the Halo Effect and the Cheerleader Effect; It makes sense that the more attractive someone is, the more other people in a group will be associated with the positive, attractive qualities that go along with specific group members. If the Halo Effect can affect how we see products that appear with attractive people, what do we think about other people that appear with attractive people? Interestingly, this may be more visceral than “associations”, since one theory, ensemble encoding, suggests that your mind may literally meld the faces together. This process averages out less attractive features. However, I don’t imagine that same occurs between faces and clothing.

    Of interest to both of us is exactly what about our minds give rise to the suggestibility of our perceptions of commercial products and groups of people alike. Biologically, we want to look at the things that represent youth and health to us, and, perhaps for evolutionary reasons, it makes sense to associate with these people. Another reason why this bias helps out stores is because attractive people will be attended to more; thus, you’ll also be paying more attention to products as well.

    Your post simulates a couple of questions: If the Halo Effect is mainly about traits that you ascribe to the people themselves who look nice (like being kind), what is the specific connection between the Halo Effect and why I would want to enter Abercrombie? Perhaps the context of the advertisements, the placement of products with nice looking people, gives the false illusion that being hot, happy, and healthy is something that you can buy into.

    Also, the Halo Effect must be tied with racial stigmas about attractiveness. If we associate attractiveness (a variable, partially culturally informed trait) with traits like friendliness and intelligence, it seems like the Halo Effect contributes to the stigmas associated with “other” groups.

  2. April 30th, 2017 at 19:43 | #2

    Hi Cindy! I just finished reading your post, and I have to say: “Some nice abs you’ve got there!”

    Very interesting post! I enjoyed reading it, and I wanted to suggest another psychological phenomenon that may be important when you talk about halo effect is stereotype. People will react differently based on their expectations of a given situation, based on their cultural experiences, or individual preferences. The more people are exposed to pretty faces, the more their stereotypes and biases will change.

    I love how you bring into light that the halo effect can create another, more negative, effect, where the interviewer might be biased by our physical appearance, more than our life experiences. In normal world, I would consider this unethical. I do not know if you would agree with me or not, but getting a job because you look good is not the best thing in the world.

    I also wanted to point out the study by Talamas, David, and Perrett (2009) that suggested that academic performance is not insusceptible to the attractive halo effect. Their findings suggest that attractiveness due to halo effect could introduce misleading effects of your actual experiences, and academic engagement to your boss. Later the halo effect might have an impact on your interview decision, just like I explained above. Therefore, even though the physical attraction should not be on interview rating form, but due to halo effect, it may still have an invisible effect on your final performance.

    Talamas, S. N., Mavor K. I., Perrett, D. I. (2016). Blinded by beauty: attractiveness bias and accurate perceptions of academic performance. PLOS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148284

  3. May 1st, 2017 at 10:46 | #3

    Very interesting post! Although I did not learn specifically about the halo effect previously, my Psychology and Neuroscience seminar last year talked extensively about what features are considered attractive and how that is heavily influenced by biological factors. As you mentioned in your post, physical attractiveness is seen as a strong indicator of health and as such, would (at least traditionally) influence survival. However, I was interested to hear about the effects that it can have on every day life. I was particularly intrigued by your second to last paragraph that discussed the impact of attractiveness on applying to jobs and on perceived academic performance. You mentioned that the halo effect seems to improve the judgements of others towards an attractive person. Does this change the way that the attractive person thinks about him- or herself? Specifically, I was wondering about the way that the halo effect may interact with metacognition. As we have learned this semester, people that are overconfident in their ability have worse metacognition and therefore, tend to estimate higher grades than they actually receive. Would putting an attractive person on a pedestal increase the likelihood that they would be overconfident?

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