Overvalued personal traits

halo-effect

One of the most frustrating things about human psychology is our tendency to overvalue a wide array of visible external traits.

The obvious one here is with beauty and attractiveness. When someone is attractive, we tend to assume that they also possess a number of other positive traits. Psychologists refer to this as the halo effect. This isn’t hard to believe. Just look out at the world. Look at the beautiful people in advertisements, and ask yourself, why do these beautiful people have to do with the product?

Attractiveness is overvalued within our society, even though it really has no correlation with the other positive traits.

This is just one example. There are many more.

We assume that those who are taller are more powerful, even if they aren’t

We assume that people well groomed are more respectable, even though being well groomed has no correlation to one’s integrity.

We assume that the loud ones will make good leaders, even though loudness has nothing to do with leading people.

We assume great public speakers, or charismatic people are fit for important jobs, even though they may have nothing to do with doing the important job.

We assume that decisiveness matters, even though the only thing that matters is the ability to make good decisions.

These false assumptions strongly affect the world that we live in. All of these overvalued personal traits shouldn’t matter, and yet they do. Attractive people get treated better than unattractive people. At work, the loudest are often heard the most. The charismatic interviewer tends to get the job. Our leaders tend to be tall, good-looking, well-groomed, and exceptional at public speaking.

And these false assumptions about external traits mask the important internal traits. Does someone has a strong set of values? Do they stick to their values? Are they trustworthy? Can they think through a problem? Can they think out of the box? Do they genuinely respect others? You can’t immediately tell whether someone has these positive traits, but they are the traits that really matter.

What can we do about these overvalued traits?

  1. First make sure you have the traits that matter. Be a good person. Hone your craft and up your skill level. At the same time, be aware of the overvalued traits that you can take advantage of. Some are natural, but some can be improved.
  2. If you find yourself dazzled by someones overvalued traits, be especially careful to look beyond it. If you don’t do this, you may be stuck with a bad boss, coworker, employee, friend, or significant other.

P.S. This is post number #67 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Or, check out my current project Soulmix.

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