The Halo Effect: The reason why we are judgmental pricks

Appearances don’t matter. Right?

Haha, no. They do. I spent a good few years trying to prove to myself that I can raise above our self inflicted standards of beauty, that I could walk this world living life on my own terms. Lol. Then I got realistic.

As you grow up, you slowly instigate and appreciate social relationships and if you have an IQ north of 60 (I’m sure you do), you also make a few observations along the way. This is the most obvious, yet underrated one.

People judge you based on how you look. 

“Also known as the physical attractiveness stereotype and the “what is beautiful is good” principle, the halo effect, at the most specific level, refers to the habitual tendency of people to rate attractive individuals more favorably for their personality traits or characteristics than those who are less attractive. Halo effect is also used in a more general sense to describe the global impact of likable personality, or some specific desirable trait, in creating biased judgments of the target person on any dimension. Thus, feelings generally overcome cognition when we appraise others.”

This isn’t exactly insightful, it’s more like common sense. It’s become a core value socially engineered into our brains. But it wasn’t common sense to me.

It was a harsh truth I learnt once I became old enough to feel insecure about my body. It’s not my favorite memory.

From what I have observed, some people are taught to care about their appearance from a very young age. Damn, if only my mum had been that smart. She taught me stupid stuff like how you should make an impression with your brain and not your body. How naive, right?!

Obsessing over your appearance is often termed “taking care of yourself”  in what I believe is an attempt to normalize and perpetuate this bias. Trust me, I was healthy, I just wasn’t pretty.

My parents let me out in the sun to play. I drank lots of water, just didn’t apply sunscreen. I never understood why my relatives weren’t satisfied with that answer.

I had a good relationship with food until I didn’t because of my body issues. I’m not obese, but not fit either. Somewhere in the middling chubby zone. I know it wouldn’t hurt to exercise but I think I prefer my mental health over a perfect waist. There are some weak moments and I often have to convince myself about the surety of my argument. You need a LOT of conviction to be comfortable and in love with yourself. God knows there’s an abundance of evidence waiting to make you feel otherwise.

Ever noticed that the dumb guy in advertisements, the one who doesn’t use the product being advertised, is mostly shown as fat? This is suggestion at a subconscious level. Playing to the Halo Effect. The underlying fat shaming which perfectly primes the viewing population for inculcating fat stereotypes is another topic altogether. I’ll save it for another post.

At a very fundamental level, all of us want to be wanted. It is this need which steers the exchange of attention in the social fabric of all of our relationships.

I’m sure all of us have seen someone get off with something they didn’t deserve because they managed to make the right impression. “Life is easier for beautiful people.”

Maybe it isn’t possible to be objective. Maybe we are just hardwired to judge people. Maybe this post is useless and is just a personal rant. Or maybe, just maybe we can consciously work on our emotional intelligence. Maybe.





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