Potential drawbacks of implicit personality theories

Although there are many advantages to using implicit personality theories when forming impressions, there is some danger in relying too heavily on these theories. In addition to the aforementioned self-based heuristic, another one of the most common misuses of implicit personality theory is when observers believe two traits are more highly correlated than they are in reality. This fallacy can take two forms: the halo effect and logical error. The halo effect describes the tendency of an observer to form a generally favorable, unfavorable, or average impression of a specific person, and to allow that general impression to have an exaggerated effect on their judgments of that person along other trait dimensions. A very common example of the halo effect is when an observer considers attractiveness a favorable trait, and then assumes that a very attractive person whom he meets is also extremely friendly or helpful, because these traits are also favorable. On the other hand, a logical error fallacy is made when observers make judgments about trait relationships based on correlations they believe make sense logically, instead of forming these connections based on observations of real-life trait relationships. An example of making the logical error would be assuming that a person who is physically strong and muscular is also athletic. This trait relationship makes logical sense, but without observations to back it up, assuming this relationship would be making the logical error. While both the halo effect and the logical error fallacy result in unfounded trait correlations, the difference is that the halo effect refers to trait correlations of a specific person, while the logical error is more generalizable across the population, and refers to trait correlations that are made with no regard to specific individuals’ behaviors.


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