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The Halo Effect: Power of First Impressions

August 4th, 2011

Are first impressions important?   Do attractive people have an unfair advantage? According to the halo effect, while not a fair or necessarily an accurate assessment, first impressions are indeed very powerful.   When people receive positive visual messages and cues from a pleasing appearance, they will assume that other aspects about you are equally as positive. This compounding effect is referred to as the halo effect.

Solomon Asch, the human behaviorist  who is considered an early pioneer of social psychology is well-know for research in this area.   The results of his famous study suggest that attractiveness is a central trait, so we take it another step further to presume all the other traits of an attractive person are just as attractive and sought after.   The linking of disconnected traits is the basis for making first impressions and why they are so hard to overcome.

As silly as it seems, results from a more recent study by Bryn Mawr College confirms his earlier research.  As a cosmetic surgeon, I make a living helping people improve their appearance.   I do believe in the notion that when you look good, you often feel better, but I find it fascinating that the perceptions of appearance and physical beauty also involve the unconscious.   I’ll think twice now about running up to the grocery store in my dirty gardening clothes, lest I be judged too harshly!

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