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Psychology and Assumptions

Someone asked me once what I thought was one of the most basic psychological mistakes people make? After some contemplation I came to the conclusion that the "halo effect" was something I observed in others quite often. The halo effect, coming from studies in social psychology, is when an impression one has about someone (either positive or negative impressions) is generalized to their entire personality. For example, to assume that an attractive person is honest, hardworking, mentally healthy, and dependable; or,  that someone seen as unattractive is more than likely lazy, dishonest, mentally unhealthy, and likely to exploit others.

Difficulties can occur when one assumes various qualities about someone based simply upon initial observations. Also, those that understand the power of the halo effect can use it to their advantage and will therefore be very careful about how they come across to those they seek something from (such as money, opportunity, votes, etc.).

Being careful not to make quick judgements or decisions, allowing for time to pass to observe consistency, or really checking out formal or informal references, are bits of advice that have some valuable wisdom running through them. What about you? Can you think of a time when you incorrectly assumed someone was one way or another, based on some impression they made upon you? Are you becoming more effective at not committing the halo effect?

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Russ Reglin is an associate professor of psychology at MidAmerica Nazarene University.


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Guest Friday, 25 July 2014

About This Blog

OhBehave is the outreach blog of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department. In matters related to Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice you will find information and updates geared to keep students and professionals abreast of the latest research, professional developments, and important trends in each field. As we seek a life of purpose, the material presented in this blog is meant to enhance and deepen our understanding of people and our world so that we may intentionally reflect the grace and peace of our creator.