Is there a term for what I'm experiencing?
February 14, 2015 7:10 AM   Subscribe

When I look at people, my visual perception of them is strongly colored by how I feel about them. For example, if I like someone, I generally think they're quite beautiful or handsome. If I dislike someone, they're ugly to me. I've tried Googling this, but haven't gotten relevant hits. Is there a term for this?

I know this is common for people (sometimes you become more attracted to a person as you get to know them) but it seems extreme for me. For example, there's a woman in an organization I'm in that everyone says is beautiful, but cruel. I've heard of the cruel things she's said, and to me, she looks like Voldemort from the Harry Potter films. Literally very similar. Once I saw her and didn't know who she was and I thought she looked like just a regular person (not ugly, but not as stunning as everyone says), but when someone told me it was like she changed before my eyes.

Another time I was in a meeting with a colleague that I generally liked and thought was pretty. Then she said something really mean-spirited about a kid, and it was like her face melted before my eyes and she looked physically different to me...suddenly I saw acne scars and bags under her eyes that weren't there before.

It's an interesting phenomenon that I'd like to learn more about, but I can't Google it because I don't know what it's called. Does anyone know what it's called when your perception of someone's physical apperance is tied to your feelings about them?
posted by christinetheslp to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The term you want is "interaction appearance theory."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:20 AM on February 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

(the Roald Dahl theory)
posted by glass origami robot at 7:39 AM on February 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" - that's been a human experience for a long time.
posted by BrooksCooper at 8:01 AM on February 14, 2015

Wow, christinetheslp, thank you for articulating this phenomenon so well. I've tried to explain this to people myself and no one gets it or goes down the road of "we are more forgiving of our loved ones' flaws" which is not what I mean.
posted by Punctual at 8:12 AM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Halo effect is what I've always heard this called.
posted by telegraph at 9:57 AM on February 14, 2015

And in a strange way this interaction appearance perception has a big downside, we have been taught to "see" certain faces, manners and/or traits as the enemy. Law enforcement has troubles with this as in living while black. Fox News has troubles with anyone not them. Related I think also to the issue of so few "handsome" men being homeless and the reveal when "homeless" get make overs and their lives improve. And don't get me started on Afro-American ethic names and identical resumes with predictable results.

We seem to have a need to fit people's images into our personal filing system as to their value as humans or in the worst case as not humans at all.

Explains the propaganda use of characterizations of Jews in the German press and films using vermin as metaphor.
posted by Freedomboy at 4:24 PM on February 14, 2015

posted by yoyo_nyc at 10:21 PM on February 14, 2015

I'd call this "normal." Everyone does this.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:46 AM on February 15, 2015

As my son once commented - for every beautiful woman in the world, there's a guy somewhere who gets sick at the sight of her.
posted by mmiddle at 10:50 AM on February 15, 2015

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