This post is Grassroots, meaning a reader posted it directly. If you see an issue with it, contact an editor.
If you’d like to post a Grassroots post, click here!

September 13, 2021

The Halo/Horn Effect

Photo by Ivan Siarbolin on Pexels.

Edward Thorndike, dubbed the founder of educational psychology, is renowned due to his many contributions to the field. One of his more popular concepts was the halo effect. The halo effect is when you attribute other positive or concepts to an individual based on a singular superficial trait. The horn effect is when you attach other negative qualities to an individual based on a singular trait.

Are you curious about these effects? Let’s dig in to the cognitive bias many of us use without even realizing it.

An example of the halo effect is when we view someone as attractive, so then we also ascribe them as kind, and a good spouse.

Similarly the horn effect would be to assign someone as unattractive and therefore they are also a lazy, low-achieving, grunt.

Can you see how both effects are negative?

People tend to instill cognitive bias all over the place. We make assumptions based off of very little experience or information. Categorizing an individual into so may positive or negative assignments based off of a singular perception is a faulty mechanism.

However, if you have witnessed multiple positive traits or a surplus of negative traits, this is who they are when you are present. Do you bring out the worst in them? Are they wonderful in your presence because they are smart enough to know better? Do you allow them to be fully who they truly are? Which personas do you enable?

There are, what I feel to be, dead-ringers for pinpointing passable (as in pass them by) individuals. If they are cruel to animals, women, children, LGBTQ, are racist, or rude to waitstaff, RUN. Don’t try to heal/mend/enlighten/educate them (unless you are a professional and they are seeing you for therapy). People must want to change on their own.

However, studies have shown, if you want someone to truly understand how their beliefs are faulty and without merit, then you should assign them to compose an essay which requires them to research all of their negative or contrarian beliefs so they can read for themselves as to why they may want to begin to change their ways.

Having said that, I highly doubt you’re going to get Karen in human resources to compile research for an essay on why telling people they will get “monkey brain” if they get the Covid-19 vaccination is not only an ignorant and poorly formed assertion, but also not so subtlety racist (this was an actual conversation). Best just to wish her well.

Please lead with compassion and be willing to challenge your own belief systems. We can do better when we know better.

All my best,

Tricia Rembold

For more information on cognitive psychology please seek out these sources:

The works of Edward Thorndike; Jean Piaget; Albert Bandura; B. F. Skinner; William James; Erik Erikson; Leon Festinger; Elizabeth Loftus; Ivan Pavlov; Abraham Maslow; Martin Seligman; Aaron T. Beck; and Lev Vygotsky.

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Tricia Rembold  |  Contribution: 2,205