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Halo Effect

Coined by psychologist Edward Thorndike, the Halo Effect describes people's tendency to let one positive trait guide their total opinion of a person, product, or experience.

Thorndike discovered the effect after noticing that commanding officers in the military judged their soldiers to be either all good or all bad. Almost no one was described as good at one thing but bad at another. One positive or negative trait disproportionately influenced the officers’ opinions.

Another application of the Halo Effect relates to attractiveness. People consider good-looking individuals to be more intelligent, successful, and more popular. Attractive people even receive lighter prison sentences when judged for the same crime as an unattractive person. 

The Halo Effect in the Real World

When people like the design of a site, they rate the entire experience more highly. Researchers at The Decision Lab ran a study in which they showed users two login pages. Each page had identical functionality, but different levels of design. The researchers then asked users to rate the pages’ attractiveness.

When users liked the design of a page, they were more likely to rate it as intuitive, reliable, and secure. 

The difference between the perceived performance of each page was staggering. The attractive page was rated:

  • 104% more reliable
  • 37% more intuitive
  • 152% more resilient to hacking

Why? It’s down to the powerful Halo Effect that design has on digital experiences. The more beautifully designed, the more functional an experience is perceived to be.

If you'd like to check out our video on the subject, you can watch it below: 

Halo Effect on Woman

Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash


How to apply the Halo Effect

1. Associate authorities and celebrities people with your product

The Halo Effect of celebrities and authorities who recommend your product can be massive. Your brand can borrow a bit of theiri shine and share the trust that people have in these figures. Make sure to vet potential partners, as associating your product with a celebrity does come with some risk.

2. Create aesthetically-pleasing experiences

As we saw in our example, the attractiveness of digital design will influence users’ perceptions of its functionality. But pleasant smells, tastes, touches, lighting, and temperatures can also have a Halo Effect on other parts of an experience.

Managing the sensory presentation of your digital and physical experiences can have a significant impact on sales. 

3. Use proximity and bundling to your advantage

In our lime example earlier, we saw that some items drive the purchase of related products. If you can identify these key products, try putting them close to associated products (such as chicken, in the case of limes). Consider bundling these items together with a more expensive but related product (such as alcohol).


Example Vault: Halo Effect

Halo Effect: Oprah’s Book Club