The Halo Effect

Is being attractive or likeable more important than being smart? 

Watching the US "veep" debates and the hours of analysis later, you might think so.  Apparently designer clothes, winks, kisses, and ‘shoutouts’ are what it takes to win the nation’s hearts and minds these days.

I’m tempted to wash my hands of the whole thing and say that they deserve what they get. But I (although with my campaign addicted husband) can’t look away from the TV. It’s like watching a train wreck or the reason why there is so much rubbernecking on the freeway. Bad news makes you stop, stare, and slow everyone else down.

Sure, I like perkiness. I like audacious claims. I even will use slang during important business meetings to show that I haven’t lost my connection to my ‘block.’ But lately I’m realizing how fallible these tenants of being ‘down to earth’ are. Sometimes it’s okay to be smart. It’s fine to use big words that I learned during graduate school.

Let me make this clear: we all want to see women advance in all fields, all over the world. But not just because they are women. I rejoice when people of color do well. But not just because they are people of color. What happened to liking someone because he or she was competent? Or, dare I say it, the best candidate for the job?

Psychology has proven that there is a ‘halo’ effect. That attractive people get more from life and from those around them. We are friendlier to those we consider attractive, give them more leeway, allow them more time.

Hopefully the American people are aware of this bias for the surface charm and will chose, not based on looks, or likeability, race or even gender, but on rationale, reasonable facts. Only 31 more nail biting days to go to see which wins out.

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