Pride and Prejudice and the Halo Effect

Dear P,

Jane Austen was way ahead of her time.

 

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Not only is she credited with the creation of the modern novel, she recognized the psychological phenomenon known as the halo effect. The halo effect is a cognitive bias in which our general (and probably first) impression of someone influences characteristics that these impressions have no bearing on. For example, if someone is attractive and charming, we will probably believe that they are intelligent and capable, even though these traits are not necessarily correlated.

The plot of “Pride and Prejudice” revolves around the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, overcoming the the “halos” of two different men. Wickham, though he has excellent social skills, is a liar and a misuser of funds. Darcy, despite his awkwardness, is kind, generous, and willing to explore personal growth through a relationship with Elizabeth.

 

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(Wickham in the Joe Wright version of P&P)

 

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(Wickham in Hank Green’s “Lizzie Bennet Diaries” on Youtube)

 

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(George Wickham in “Lost in Austen”)

 

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(Mr. Darcy in the Hank Green LBD series)

 

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(Mr. Darcy in Lost in Austen)

And, most spectacularly

 

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Matthew MacFayden, the paragon of Darcy-ness for our generation.

Who, by the way, is also excellent as Athos in the recent version of “The Three Musketeers”:

 

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But this post is not just an excuse to gaze upon beautiful men. If we can recognize that the halo effect plays a part in our relationships, we can more easily overcome our natural biases. On the other hand, it is important to acknowledge that first impressions are of the utmost importance. If you groom yourself and learn conversation skills, you can get away with a lot more in life.

Hugs and kisses,

E

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