The Halo Effect and its Relevance in Seinfeld

Essay by mclemen2College, UndergraduateA+, February 2010

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In today’s superficial world of stereotypical beauty, there is a psychological phenomenon that plagues over many actions we make in our everyday lives: the “halo effect.” Research has shown that many people usually correlate physical attractiveness with a multitude of other positive qualities, such as intelligence and personality. This phenomenon causes many people to believe that attractive individuals are more sociable and popular than other “ordinary” looking persons, which, depending on the particular person, may not be true at all.

From an evolutionary standpoint, it is understandable that physical attractiveness would be appealing to most people because it caters to the belief that highly evolved specimens would be the best to mate with. People are drawn to individuals that appear to offer the “complete package” (as in attractiveness, personality, intelligence, etc.), and those who have the attractiveness element secured are often looked upon as having the other preferred qualities as a given.

In turn, with all the attention a physical attractive individual receives, he or she can develop very high positive self-esteem that may even help them acquire their perceived qualities.

This halo effect is evident in many cultural references throughout American media, with one specific example coming from one of the top-rated sitcoms in television history: Seinfeld. In the twentieth episode of the seventh season for the long-running show, “The Calzone” aired on April 25th, 1996 and perfectly exemplified the halo effect. In the episode, Jerry is dating a beautiful woman named Nikki, and truly takes advantage of her good looks and ability to receive whatever she asks for. In one scene, Nikki kindly asks the manager of a movie theater for two tickets to a sold out show, which she receives of course. Another scene involves Jerry being pulled over for speeding and he antagonizes the cop for pulling him over, including boasting that he exceeded 100 miles per hour. However, all Jerry has to do is ask Nikki to bring the officer his registration, and with a quick line of “Officer, do you really have to give us a ticket?” the officer is held speechless and Jerry is able to drive away without being ticketed.

Both examples of Jerry using his girlfriend Nikki to receive whatever he wants undoubtedly show the halo effect at work. The fact that Nikki is an attractive woman gives her ultimate power over just about anyone that she comes in contact with. Although highly exaggerated, the way in which the other characters treat Nikki is how most people would react when in the presence of a very attractive individual. Both the movie manager and the police officer saw how beautiful Nikki was and automatically assumed that she possessed all the superior qualities that a complete person would have: both believed that Nikki had a glowing personality, a high intelligence level and a caring individuality that would set her apart from most other women. But neither of them saw any of those other personality traits, only the fact that she was gorgeous. Many people subconsciously believe that an attractive person is just naturally an all-around perfect human being, even if only knowing that particular person for a short amount of time.

Although a great example of halo effect, this particular Seinfeld episode does not show the assimilation effect aspect of this psychological phenomenon. This feature of the halo effect claims that people will associate with physically attractive individuals not only because they believe that they socializing with a complete human being, but also because they assume that by being with this person they will be rewarded. Many believe that just by hanging out with attractive people will benefit them in various ways from just being around them; whether it is meeting other attractive people or just making one’s self look more attractive, many believe that just hanging out with a physically attractive individual will impact their lives in some positive way. In the episode, both the movie manager and police officer do whatever Nikki tells them to do just because she is a great beauty. They do not give into her requests because they believe their lives will be influenced positively, but just because she is a physically attractive woman. This overlooked aspect of the halo effect is not referenced within this particular Seinfeld episode.

Works CitedGuerrero, Laura K., Walid A. Afifi, and Peter A. Andersen. Close Encounters : Communication inRelationships. Minneapolis: SAGE Publications, Incorporated, 2007.

"Seinfeld Episode Guide." 1 Oct. 2008.