Halo Effect: How It (No More) Manipulates Your Judgment

Kolja Wohlleben

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VIDEO With english subtitles

We’ve certainly heard the saying "first impressions count". But is the first impression always the right one? How often do we let ourselves be dazzled by outward appearances and charisma without really questioning whether the person actually delivers what he or she promises? In this article you will learn about the psychological phenomenon behind the halo effect, what it's all about and how you can protect yourself from it.

What Is the Halo Effect?

The Halo Effect describes a systematic error of judgment in which a single outstanding characteristic of a person appears so dominant that other aspects appear unimportant in the assessment or are ignored altogether.

Similar to a halo, this effect causes a positive characteristic of a person to automatically outshine other areas in a positive way. Or at least that is how we perceive it. But here's the problem: This assumption often lacks a solid foundation.

What Is an Example of the Halo Effect?

A good example of the Halo Effect are job promotions:

Often, technically competent employees are promoted to management positions because they excel in their respective areas of responsibility. The problem with this is that their technical skills seem so dominant that any required improvements on their social leadership skills are masked.

The result is often inexperienced leaders who, because of their expertise in one area, end up in a position for which they may not be suited.

Find out what makes good leadership development! →

Why Should You Know About the Halo Effect?

The Halo Effect can significantly influence our judgment. This can be particularly problematic in job interviews, for example.

Research has shown that attractive people are often perceived as more competent, even when there is no objective evidence to support this. A charming appearance can therefore conceal a lack of competence.

This phenomenon can lead to making wrong decisions, whether that be in personnel selection, the choice of a partner, or in other areas of life where assessments have to be made about people.

How Can You Protect Yourself from the Halo Effect?

Here are a few things you can do: to protect yourself from the influence of the Halo Effect:

1. Request resumes without photos
If you work in an HR role or are in a position to select new employees or handle job applications, get resumes without photos. This will reduce the risk of a person's appearance influencing your assessment.

2. Question your perceptions:
Ask yourself why you perceive a person positively. Is he or she really competent at his or her job? Or does he or she merely have the talent to shine in job interviews? Critical self-reflection can help break the Halo Effect.

3. Make fact based decisions:
Try to base your judgments about people on objective facts and performance, rather than being guided by superficial impressions.

Where else do we Experience the Halo Effect?

The halo effect is a psychological phenomenon that can occur in many areas of our lives. In addition to job interviews and promotions, it can also occur in advertising, politics, and even in the evaluation of products.

It is important to realize that the Halo Effect can also have positive effects. It can inspire and motivate people to do their best to validate the positive impression they have made.


The Halo Effect is an interesting phenomenon that reminds us how important it is to base our judgments about people on sound facts and objective criteria. After all, the perception of people should not be determined solely by a charismatic appearance.

Through more conscious decision-making processes, we can protect ourselves from the distortions of the Halo Effect and make fair judgments.

So… stay curious and don't be blinded by the halo!


Kolja Wohlleben

Kolja Wohlleben is Lead Instructional Design at Masterplan and explores exciting (learning) theories on a daily basis. He shares his knowledge in the Masterplan Shorts and here on the blog.
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