Tuesday, January 15, 2008

the halo effect

Shouldn't surprise anyone that when people think they're getting something expensive, they enjoy it more. It's a psychological phenomenon called the "halo effect." Expectation not only modifies perception, but creates it. I'm happy because I smile, not the other way around.

Today's example: tell an oenophile they're drinking vintage pinot noir, and they'll savor it. Tell them they're guzzling $6 merlot, and they'll spit it out. Don't argue; it's science.
A $90 wine was provided marked with its real price and again marked $10, while another was presented at its real price of $5 and also marked $45.

The testers' brains showed more pleasure at the higher price than the lower one, even for the same wine, Rangel reports in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In other words, changes in the price of the wine changed the actual pleasure experienced by the drinkers, the researchers reported.

On the other hand, when tasters didn't know any price comparisons, they rated the $5 wine as better than any of the others sampled.
Does a "halo effect" exist in education? Almost certainly. In its negative form, we call it "labeling." Positively, it's a Jedi mind trick: this is fun, students, because I say it's fun, and believe it's fun, and you're going to have fun. Fun fun fun.

I firmly believe in the halo effect, which is why I wear ties twice a week. Gotta keep the halo polished.


TeacherRefPoet said...

Isn't this also known as the Chivas Regal effect? And doesn't it help explain the obsession with (expensive) "name" colleges?

Jim Anderson said...

Yes indeedy. And it makes suspect any theory based purely on a mathematical or "purely rational" decision-making apparatus.