The Halo Effect: is Beautiful Always Better?

By Chris Sandel

The Physical Attractiveness Stereotype 

By our very nature we believe that someone who is more attractive to us (and this is typically physically) is often assumed to possess other positive qualities. This is known as The Halo Effect. Chris Sandel our resident nutritionist runs the company 7 Health and talks more about this physical attractiveness stereotype. 

Coined by Edward Thorndike, an American psychologist, in 1920 he conducted an experiment where he took two commanding officers in the army and asked them to evaluate their soldiers in two areas. First were their physical qualities (neatness, voice, energy) and how they used their physical characteristics to rally the troops. And second were their personal characteristics, (intellect, leadership skills, loyalty, responsibility, selflessness, and cooperation).

What was interesting about the study results was that it showed there was a correlation between the two areas. The person’s physical qualities would impact on the results about their personal characteristics. If an officer was given a good rating for physical qualities, their rating for personal abilities were also higher. If they were rated lower on physical qualities, they were typically deemed less effective in leadership skills, loyalty, cooperation, etc.

But what the study actually found was that these ratings weren’t based on reality but on human bias. It showed that we make assumptions about a positive or negative quality and generalise it across all areas.

Should We Stare Into Every Car Window?

Now this is a sad indictment on us as humans. And you might be thinking that maybe you should go on that crash diet or become more vain and focus on your appearance to get ahead. But this isn’t the important part of what the study shows; in fact it is how this affects our flawed judgment with comparison.

There is a tendency to see someone who is slim and attractive and make a whole lot of assumptions. We assume that they have the perfect partner, a great job, a nice house and that they are happy in their body and in their life. We make the assumption that if we could just get these qualities of physical attractiveness for ourselves, that life would be so much better. But how false is this really? I work with many women who have the perfect body by societies standards and who have The Halo Effect working clearly in their favour, but who are anything but satisfied in certain areas of their lives.

Focus on the Journey, Not the Destination  

Comparing yourself to others is one of the most sure fire ways to make yourself feel bad. And it is because we typically compare ourselves to those who have it better than us – or whom we believe have it better than us. Part of the problem is that we compare ourselves to someone’s front of house, without seeing the struggles and ups and downs that they go through behind the scenes.

While you may think you’ll be happier with a better body or a bigger house, this really isn’t the case. You can be happy without any of these things. This doesn’t mean you can’t work towards getting the body or the house, but know that your happiness isn’t contingent on them happening. Many people believe that they’ll be happy when they reach a goal they have in mind and that this will change everything once they reach it. Unfortunately, it rarely works as planned. People who don’t reach their goal often feel like they’ve failed, and if they do reach it, they realise it doesn’t have the desired outcome they hoped for as they are usually focusing on getting to the goal rather than focusing on everything they currently have in the present moment.

Comparing yourself to others really should be avoided. The comparisons you make are rarely accurate and even when they are, they typically leave you feeling worse about your situation. Focus on everything you have and what you can do and use this as your impetus for making changes. I promise it will serve you better than the negativity all too often used.

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