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December 1, 2018 |The Halo Effect – Parashat Vayeshev 

Rabbi Tucker

If you find yourself broken down on the side of the road, it doesn’t hurt to be beautiful!  It also doesn’t hurt to be beautiful if you’re taking a class in school, applying for a job, or serving in the army.  In fact, a study of soldiers conducted in 1920 by the psychologist Edward Thorndike was initially responsible for demonstrating what has come to be known as “the halo effect,” a cognitive bias by which humans tend to see people who are physically attractive as also being smarter, kinder, more successful, better at parenting, and a whole myriad of other good things.  In his pioneering experiment, Thorndike asked commanding officers to rate their subordinates on such metrics as intelligence, leadership, and character along with physique, noting a correlation between otherwise unrelated traits with service members who were taller and more attractive also seen as being smarter and better soldiers.  Subsequent studies have found that ratings of physical attractiveness are reasonably good predictors of success in US Congressional races, that subjects are more lenient in sentencing attractive individuals than unattractive ones for the very same crimes, and that attractiveness leads to success in being hired even for positions in which physical attributes should be irrelevant.  “What is beautiful is good,” write authors Dion, Berscheid, and Walster in their 1972 paper explaining how individuals tend to conflate aesthetic and moral virtue.  Perhaps the world’s very first example of this strange phenomenon is none other than our forefather Joseph, protagonist of this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Vayeshev.   Continue Reading --->

Fri, February 21 2020 26 Shevat 5780