For many individuals their hero, leader or role model can do no wrong. The reason for that? The Halo Effect.
The Halo Effect was coined by psychologist Edward Thorndike. Thorndike defined the Halo Effect as one quality outshining everything else, ultimately outshining any faults the hero may have.
Thorndike, who was an educational psychologist, observed how one group of individuals perceived another group of individuals. More specifically how educators rated their students.
Thorndike composed a paper entitled "The Constant Error in Psychological Ratings." In the paper, he noted a study he conducted that included military troops. Two commanding officers evaluated their soldiers according to physical qualities, intellect, leadership and personality. His study revealed the ratings of one special quality of an officer were likely to start a trend in the rating results.
Other studies of the Halo Effect demonstrated an individual's likeability due to attractiveness. Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that physical attractiveness influenced individual's perceptions of one another. Participants were instructed to rate images of people on their social desirability. The study demonstrated the more attractive people scored higher. The more attractive the individual was, the more likely he or she was rated socially desirable.
In a study conducted by Harold Sigall and Nancy Ostrove, the Halo Effect can influence juror's decisions. A physically attractive defendant was assigned a more lenient sentence compared to an unattractive defendant. Additionally, in a staged negligence trial a victim was awarded $5,623, however when the victim was more attractive, the compensation was $10,051.
Conversely, the Halo Effect can also negatively affect one's perception. In a book published in 2007, economist Phil Rosenzweig, stated a company's financial success is accredited to their marketing team and their leader that can conceal problems. If that success fades away people will no longer perceive the company as good, but now associate the company with problems.