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The Halo Effect: A Powerful Strategy for First Impressions

Posted by Ben Meer on


Did you know that male CEOs are nearly 3 inches taller than the average male population?¹

Not just some tall tale… In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, he shares polling results from half of the companies of the Fortune 500 list – the largest corporations in the United States. Gladwell discovered that male CEOs (as a group) were a shade under six feet, while the average American male is 5’9!

That’s a lot of intelligence, charisma and leadership packed into 3 inches. Seriously, why do we love tall men?

According to leading behavioral psychologists, humans are riddled with a phenomenon known as cognitive bias.

Cognitive bias refers to straying from the norm in rational judgment. Much like a mental block, the pattern causes us to make irrational inferences about other people and situations.

You see, throughout our day, we’re confronted with a constant inbound flow of information – literally millions of bits of data. The sheer volume overwhelms our primitive processing systems.

According to esteemed psychologist and author Robert Cialdini, this overload forces us to adopt an automated “click, whirr” response.² In other words, we make fast decisions and gather the minimal information needed to survive.

Even more, the “click, whirr” gets exacerbated when we become fatigued, hungry or stressed. We tend to focus on even less of the information available to us. The one-single-piece of good evidence approach becomes our default response.

As a result, the tall man suddenly takes on alpha attributes: confidence, boldness, and keen judgment. An aura of positive traits surrounds him. It’s a modern day halo - a cognitive bias known as the halo effect.

The Halo Effect

The halo effect occurs when one positive characteristic of a person dominates the way that person is viewed by others

Now you may be wondering: that’s very interesting, but there’s nothing I can do to grow taller…

Fortunately, I’ve identified 3 alternative characteristics that can trigger a halo effect.

Let’s add them to the halo framework: remarkable skill, dressing for success and proper grooming.

I encourage those above average in height to continue reading. You may discover you don’t want to solely rely on inches, when the stakes and rewards are at their very highest.

1) Remarkable Skill 

If you’re a master in a particular skill, invite as many people as possible to observe you in that space. Be exceptional at something in the presence of others and you’ll acquire a plethora of favorable attributes.

Now, this is not a political post - but remember Barrack Obama’s 2004 keynote speech at the DNC? Hard to forget, right? One could argue this world-class oration secured the young Senator’s halo, lighting the path to the oval office.

If you’d like to develop a remarkable skill, consider choosing the skill strategically. For example, if you do a lot of business development on the golf course, theory shows it may be extremely beneficial to develop solid game. Your soaring drive will signal you as a bona fide stud, not only competent on the course, but in business as well.

2) Dressing for Success

In a study done in Texas, researches had a young man repeatedly Jaywalk against traffic, first in a suit and tie, and then in casual attire.³ The results were staggering… 250 percent more people followed the well-dressed man into danger.

The experiment shows that without uttering a single word, people can make a powerful statement. In the study, the man seized attributes of leadership and intelligence - simply by wearing a polished outfit.

3) Proper Grooming

In another study, the halo effect had significant implications in hiring situations. In Influence, Cialdini shares results from simulated interviews, with the controlled variable being a candidate’s grooming.

Not only did proper grooming account for more favorable hiring decisions, the interviewers claimed the candidate’s appearance was an insignificant factor.²

This is truly noteworthy: the influence and reach of the halo effect is even greater than we imagine. 


A Powerful Strategy for First Impressions

The fact that you’re still reading this article means you value personal growth. It means you’re ready to make this game changing strategy your own.

How would it feel if everyone looked at you as a master of the universe, where everything you touched would be an inevitable success?

You’d be a self-fulfilling prophecy - a force of nature on the path of greatness.

The question becomes: how quickly can you make powerful psychology work for you?

With Tailor & Spruce, you’ll discover grooming that gives you a competitive edge. Two comprehensive collections, TROVE and TOP DRAWER, offer on-demand grooming for men that live with purpose.

Visit our collections at tailorandspruce.com, because let’s face it - solid golf game could take much longer.


¹Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: the power of thinking without thinking (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2005).

²R. B. Cialdini, Influence: The psychology of persuasion. (New York: Collins, 1993).

³Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational: The hidden forces that shape our decisions. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010)



Ben Meer is an American entrepreneur and Founder of men’s grooming startup Tailor & Spruce. He’s a former Division I baseball player, certified practitioner of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), and shameless autodidact. You can also find him on twitter @ben_meer.

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