The Halo and Horn Effect can be described as one of the most powerful models in psychology. But how are these angels and devils created and how can we stop ourselves from being consumed by them?
According to psychologists, it is a tendency to allow your opinion of another person to be influenced by either a favourable (halo) or unfavourable (horn) first impression. If someone belongs in the halo category, it means that you like that person. You like being around them because they make you feel positive. If they ask you to do something, you’re prepared to drop everything and help them immediately. And if they make a mistake, you will think, “anybody can make a mistake” and let it pass.
The horn category is the complete opposite. This is where you will find the people who are in your allergy zone. You don’t like working with them, and if you had a choice in the matter you would avoid them completely. If they somehow manage to do something positive, you will easily forget about it and focus on their mistakes instead.
A classic example of the halo effect would be a politician whom we trust to make good decisions because he seems warm, friendly, has great hair and a bright smile. Because of his appearance, we expect him to be as holy as an angel. The horn effect can be described with the example that “all rich people are selfish”, although it’s not necessarily the case.
Do you think you’re free from the snares of the Halo and Horn Effect? If so, you’re probably wrong. Let’s do a small test and you will see what I mean. Choose someone you know in your halo category, someone you’re really fond of. Now think of five positive qualities this person has. You will probably find this easy to do, right? Then think of five negative qualities this same person has. It’s likely that you’ll find this much more difficult.
Now think of someone who belongs to the horn category, whom you are less fond of. Try to name five positive and negative character traits of this person. You are most likely to find it easier to name the five negative ones.
The Best Defence
It is important to realize that the Halo and Horn Effect is not without value. While you should strive to remove them from the cognitive side of your brain, they should still influence your ultimate behaviour. I wouldn’t want to be around people who lie, steal or cheat even if they are good at their job or otherwise pleasant to be around. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being cautious. You can never completely prevent yourself from judging people due to your first impression of them. It’s in our human nature to get a good or a bad vibe of the people that surrounds us.
Always remember that even if one of your devils proposes it, a good idea is a good idea. And even if one of your angels thinks he or she has the best idea, it can still be a bad idea. Don’t let your first impressions of people influence the way you see them further on in your relationship with them. Every person deserves a second chance, even the ones with horns.