Mind Over Meal: How the Halo Effect Influences Your Food and Dining Choices

Contributor
There’s a subconscious ‘halo’ lurking over many of our daily decisions
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What's your real reason behind ordering those fries animal-style?

Every day, we’re faced with dozens, if not hundreds, of food-related decisions — what to eat for lunch, where to take a date to dinner, how to cook a new dish. Many people don't realize to what degree these decisions aren't based on logic or judgment, but instead are ruled by an unconscious process known as the Halo Effect. The Halo Effect is a subconscious process in which we jump to a conclusion because we have a good overall impression of a person, product, label, or company.

You don’t have to look very far to discover how much the Halo Effect impacts your everyday dining decisions. When you decide to go to a celebrity chef's restaurant because you think the food must be good, you may not realize how much your enjoyment of the drama on their reality show colors your impression of their cooking ability.  Or you might go on Amazon and order a new cookbook by your favorite daytime talk show host, assuming that because they are a great host they must have great recipe ideas.  Similarly, you may decide to overlook all the fat, calories, and sugar in your favorite fast food lunch options because they carry a "Healthy Halo" in the form of a stamp from the American Heart Association.     

While it is very difficult to overcome the Halo Effect (which is why publicists and marketers have been taking advantage of it for more than 50 years), you can use this knowledge to become more aware of how it affects your everyday life. Whenever you feel strongly about a food choice and can’t quite figure out why, look out for the halo. 

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