- Chelsea Wong
The Power of Perception: Understanding the Halo Effect in Psychology
© Illustration by INJECTION - Alicia Lupieri
Finding the beauty radiating from within.
The halo effect is one of the oldest and most widely known psychological phenomenons, describing ‘the basic human tendency to make special inferences on the basis of general impression’. It suggests those with favourable physical attributes create the perception of these people as intelligent, warm, socially skilled, friendlier, independent, deviant, more poised, and generally less stigmatised than ‘less attractive’ people. I find this phenomenon incredibly intriguing because I don’t understand it. As a Demisexual, I have never experienced this initial attraction people have upon first meeting someone and forming an impression. So it fascinates me that this is actually a thing.
From the age of 6 years old, children can already report a distinction between how they wished they looked and how they actually look. It is incredibly toxic. From a young age, girls especially prefer smaller bodies due to them being engrained early that smaller body sizes are preferred in society. From a young age, children already understand ‘what is beautiful is good,' building social stereotypes as they grow up where physically attractive people are just meant to be better than the average person. All this leads to conventionally beautiful people automatically being seen as more sociable, intelligent, and competent. But why exactly is ‘beauty’ the way in which people are judged?
To me, beauty is everywhere, and it should not be based on a primary attraction and/or encounter. Obviously, people tend to have physical features which they prefer, but I do feel there is a difference between personal preference and this preference being influenced by society’s flaunted idea of beauty ideals and attractiveness. These people get an 'easier' pass, posing many benefits for them for being favoured in society. Just in the workplace, ‘beautiful’ people are more likely to get hired, where it is thought people can form an impression within the first X second upon setting eyes on them rather than their capabilities which they will show for later. I see it as unhealthy practice - who’s to say someone isn’t beautiful?
The halo effect is 100% an actual phenomenon - pretty privilege is real, and no matter how much you think you don’t judge someone based on appearance, the chances you are, even subconsciously. But to me, attraction should not stem from looks but from what comes beneath the layers that make up the person. With everyone being unique, it confuses me how people think we are comparable. Everyone has so much more to offer, which is completely different from the next individual. Everyone has their own passions, goals, and fears. They portray different hobbies, their own cute laugh, and their idea of banter. They have their own music taste, tv show likes, fashion sense. They have their own way of thinking, expressing their philosophies. What attracts me is the mind, the intangible aspects of somebody.
Being conventionally attractive should have no say on how easy you should live your life. It should not pose more benefits to the next person because you have a specific eye shape, height or body size. What should matter is the individuality a person possesses that makes them unique. The goodness of their hearts, the similar interests, the challenges they give you. We need to stop caring about someone’s physical appearance and start commenting on the beauty that radiates from within, the part that makes you smile and brings you happiness. We need to start putting a halo on everyone because everyone is beautiful.