How “The Horns Effect” Plays a Part in Bullying (Part 2)

 

(Continued from Part One…)

With the Horns Effect, teachers are less patient with a bullied student who asks questions in class or for help with an assignment. Thus the target of bullying won’t learn as much, won’t work hard, and won’t make very high grades, which will only activate the teacher’s confirmation bias and reinforce her opinion of the poor kid, that the kid is lazy, good for nothing and a crappy student.

If you’re a target of your peers and under the thumb of the Horns Effect, others in your school, workplace, or community begin to see you as a terrible person and block any opportunities for friendships, relationships, and success as word travels quickly.

Anytime you’re bullied and feel you can’t do anything right by anyone, you can bet that you’re on the receiving end of The Horns Effect.

The devil hiding in the businessman – alter ego concept

It doesn’t matter whether or not people’s hatred of you is deserved. The Horns Effect mars everyone’s interactions with you, and you feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall in trying to get anywhere with people.

And because the target, who has been mistreated, is unhappy, miserable, depressed and angry (and who wouldn’t be under those circumstances?), everyone who already hates the target feels justified in their hatred.

Sadly, once the Horn Effect takes hold and people form an image of the target, it’s almost impossible to change. No matter what or how many good deeds she does, or how kind she is to others, her good actions will only be seen as a ploy to kiss-up to, fool and manipulate people.

White egg between angry brown ones

Understand that The Horns Effect is what bullies count on. And once the bullies complete their agenda of destroying you and your reputation, The Horns Affect will automatically come into play.

(The Horns Effect- the tendency to see one bad thing in a person and believe that everything about that person is bad).

It’s tough to get others to change their first impressions of you. It can be done but it takes a truckload of patience and consistency. It also takes a certain amount of pointing out your good qualities, hard work and successes to people, which can backfire if you aren’t careful. People will only think you’re an arrogant blowhard.

Realize that any effort to effect change may do no good or make the situation worse. Because people naturally base their decisions and behavior on deeply hidden feelings, and their actions toward you are subconscious.

Most people are either too lazy or too full-of-themselves to do any critical thinking. When they hate you, they will rationalize any hateful behavior and search for clues in you to confirm that their attitude, feelings and subsequent actions and behavior toward you are justified.

Teachers will often grade student’s papers based on their biases. In other words, they rank a student’s essay based on how they perceive that student. If a teacher sees a student be a low performer and lazy, they’ll grade that paper through the lens of expectation of a lazy, no good student who does poorly.

People don’t judge you from what’s actually there; they judge you from what they expect to be there. If people expect trouble to come from a particular place, then that’s where they’re going to look, which brings me back to the subject. If people don’t like one thing about you, the chances are that they won’t like anything else about you, good or bad.

Most ideas don’t stand on their own merits. People judge ideas based on who they came from.

The Horns and Halo Effects have a way of clouding people’s judgment of a person. People will make irrational beliefs because they believe that the existence of one bad trait means that there’s a presence of another bad quality.

Any time you are under the shadow of The Horns Effect, anything you say, accomplish, create or do is automatically dismissed without consideration of whether it’s genuine.

Casual business start up team is blame a woman in group

No matter who said it or did it, it’s either genuine or it isn’t, based on its own merit. It is what it is, no matter who it came from. A good idea is a good idea, even if it comes from the town whore. A bad idea is a bad idea, even if it came from a pastor’s wife.

Unfortunately, you have little control over other’s perceptions and opinions of you. However, there are a few things you can do, which is to take care of yourself and do the things you love most and that fulfill your soul. Also, lean on and draw closer to the people who love you.

This is  how you keep the spell of The Horns Effect from trashing your self-esteem.

How “The Horns Effect” Plays a Part in Bullying

 

The Horns Effect (or Reverse Halo Effect) – is the opposite of the Halo Effect. It’s a form of bias that causes people’s perception of a person to be negative based on a single negative trait.

No one’s perfect, and everyone has negative traits. The Horns Effect is an example of how one negative trait over-shadows the positive characteristics of a person- how negative ratings of one quality can easily cross over to judgments of other attributes.

For example, here’s a beautiful and attractive woman. She works hard, has a good heart, and has talent in singing and playing the guitar. Although the woman is kind-hearted, is a knockout in looks and has superior skill in music, if people perceive her as stupid, they may also view her as unattractive and untalented. All it takes is an unfavorable rating of one characteristic to influence lower scores of other qualities.

What happens is that people jump to conclusions about a person too quickly based only on one imperfection and end up wrongly judging the individual.

Other examples of The Horns Effect are when people judge a particular group based on the behavior of a few bad apples- they think that overweight people are lazy and have no willpower, that blondes are dumb, that blacks are thugs, that whites are racist, and that poor people are bums. You get the picture.

The problem is that we see something we don’t like about a person or a particular member of a group, then go on judging them from our own unfavorable view, which only determines our attitude and behavior toward them, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This effect causes us to think bad traits are connected to all other characteristics.

This is what happens when a person is bullied for so long and finally gets fed up and reacts out of emotion. They’re seen as overreacting, overly sensitive, or downright crazy and unhinged.

The Horns Effect causes people to have “selective attention.” They look at one undesirable trait and form an opinion of the whole person based on that one single characteristic. It’s an “all-or-nothing” mentality- black or white thinking with no room for the grey. It’s the idea that people are either good or bad and nothing in between. Bullies and their followers refuse to realize that positive and negative coexist.

This is only a stereotype, and bullies and their sheep are either unable to or refuse to go beyond that stereotype, which then becomes a prejudice against the target. They judge the target based only on their first impression they got from her and refuse to give her a “second chance.” Which only consolidates the bias. They continue to assume the person is bad or evil and treat them harshly or unfairly.

For example, if something comes up missing, people will automatically look at the target and presume him to be the thief who took it.

The victim will then become defensive (as every action produces a reaction).

Here’s another example: When things go wrong, people tend to cut everyone else- anyone else, except the target, some slack and believe that things were only out of their control or if they were within their control, pass it off that “everyone makes mistakes.”

With the target, on the other hand, people will only view that person’s every action with distrust and believe the person caused the mishap deliberately or had an agenda. Sadly, people do this subconsciously.

If anyone else is late for class or work, people will only think, “Oh, traffic must have been backed up” or “So-and-so must’ve had a stressful morning.”

On the other hand, if the target, whom they dislike, does the same thing, people will only think, “As usual, the idiot can’t get their shit together” or “she’s just hell-bent on bending the rules, isn’t she?” “She has no respect for authority.”

This is known as confirmation bias, where we search for and “find” evidence that proves our opinions of the unfortunate target to be accurate, and discount or rationalize proof that doesn’t support our views. People then judge everything the target does.

Understand that people have a psychological need to “be right” about a person. It’s what leads bystanders and others around the target to assume that any lies, rumors, and gossip about them is true, despite a complete lack of evidence.

But if the person is anyone other than the victim, people won’t believe any accusation of wrongdoing even if there’s a mountain of evidence to back it up.

The Horns Effect leads teachers and supervisors to disqualify people who are well-deserving of and qualified for awards and select someone who isn’t. And people will punish the target for a particular behavior while overlooking the same behavior in anyone else base on their personal dislike, disrespect and hatred of the target.

Also, others won’t recognize any improvement or positive change in the target and if they do, they won’t believe it will last. They’ll only see it as, “Oh, she’s just on her best behavior to impress others and get them off her tail. She’ll be back to her bitch-self soon enough. Just give her time.”

At the same time, people may not see poor and unacceptable behavior in someone other than the target. With anyone else, people will say, “Oh, so-and-so would never have done that! That sounds like something (the target’s name) would do!”

Or people will make excuses for someone else. “I’m sure Becky didn’t mean to do XYZ.” Or “Maybe Rhonda is just going through some things and that’s why she snapped and hit Christy with a baseball bat.”

The Horns Effect is the root of discrimination and prejudice just like the Halo Effect is the root of favoritism and partiality.

(Continued in Part two…)

Excerpt to the upcoming book, “A Mile in Charlotte’s Shoes” – Bullying, Social Politics, and the Power Dynamic.

To tell her exactly what was wrong would be like giving top secrets to the enemy! For Charlotte to correct the flaws and rise above the bullying and ridicule would possibly mean to rise above all of them and even worse, surpass them on the social totem pole. No way would they chance that ever happening! Her bullies had climbed to the top of the social ladder and the higher they climbed the more she saw of their behinds.

And once they are at the top, they would always find a way to kick Charlotte off that ladder, then meticulously pull it up behind them, leaving her trapped on the bottom and it was where they intend for her to stay.

It had been said that “you need money to make money.”. The same also went with friends. At Beulah High School, the unwritten rule was that a kid needed to already have friends, and lots of them, to make more friends. Unfortunately, Charlotte had not realized that nugget of truth back when it would have been most useful.

It seemed that the trick to crawling off the trash heap was to prove, or at the very least, give the illusion that you had never been on it, to begin with. And that was next to impossible given her notorious (however unwarranted) reputation, and sadly, Charlotte had worn this scarlet letter for so long that it had become ironclad.

Her peers, especially her bullies, needed her to stay on the bottom and would go out of their way to keep her on it. The pecking order needed whipping boys (or girls)- easy victories for those at the top to collect.

False compliments, fake sympathy, and fraudulent generosity that others showed the bullies and those highest in the pecking order? All of it was for show and Charlotte knew it. She saw all the chicanery and buffoonery for what it really was! Others knew it and hated her for it.

At Beulah High School, life was all about appearances and who the best and most convincing liars and fakers were. Nothing more.

It was not about what was being done, good or bad, it is about who was doing it and where they were in the social order. Anyone from the in-crowd could get wasted at a kegger and either puke everywhere, or pee their pants and it will only be seen as a funny story of a group of crazy kids from high school. But let Charlotte do the same and she would quickly be branded as a schmuck for the rest of her school career.

Cruel was always cool if someone else was on the receiving end of it. The hidden message was, Better you than me. The widely held attitude was that a person was always at their best and most alluring anytime they were delivering the worst insults to the bottom rats and everyone else either wanted to be seen with, have sex with, or be that person.

It was enchanting because everyone wanted to be the one person who was seemingly never in anyone else’s crosshairs and to have that cruel, unfair advantage on their side and working perfectly for them.

It seemed that everyone thought of these types as bad-asses and hell-raisers. Their consistent rule-breaking and torturing of the kids who haven’t matured as quickly, only got them rewarded with popularity, sex, fun- everything a young punk could ever want.

Seeing everyone get rewarded for such idiocy only made Charlotte crazy if she let it.

Another unwritten rule was that if a kid did not partake in, or at the very least, put on convincing airs that they were partaking in sex, drugs, rock, and roll, or anything that was considered cool, they would be branded a loser! A wuss! A bore!

And if you were labeled those things, you were plain S.O.L.

Many bullies and higher-ups only pretended to be drunk at parties. Most of those fakers would only take one sip from a bottle- just one! And suddenly, magically, they were plastered and silly, screaming with exaggerated laughter and stumbling all over the place.

Could they have been any more transparent?

But there was a bright side that Charlotte was too young to realize. The things about her that her classmates ridiculed and put her down for were the same characteristics that people would one day love about her.

Charlotte knew that her classmates were a bunch of coddled, punk kids who did not know human strength even if it came up and bit them. And it was only because they themselves did not have an ounce of it.

You couldn’t recognize something you never had or saw examples of.

Charlotte knew that most of the bullies came from families who were a bunch of materialistic, plastic, and fake put-ons themselves. They were not truly happy, otherwise, they would not work so hard at putting on airs.

The reason why they hated her so much was that, although they would never admit it, Charlotte was everything they only wished they could be- authentic and not afraid to be herself. And she knew that soon, there would come a day when she would have true friends, who adored her simply for being Charlotte.

(Continued in part 2…)

How it Feels to Be Bullied and Gaslighted

It’s not easy for people to distinguish between the real bully and the victim. Bullies are good at making victims look guilty, showing only the victim the worst, most brutal, and evil sides of themselves while showing everyone else their best, sweetest, and most loving halves of their personalities.

The bully may feign sympathy and compassion for her victim by making statements such as,
“I feel so terrible for (victim’s name). I sincerely hope she gets the help she needs before it’s too late.”

Bullies accuse their victims of attacking them when it’s the over way around, and people can quickly either get confused and not know who did what to who or blame the wrong person altogether.

Many times, if you’re a target of such torment, whether people believe you or not depends on their relationship with ou and with the bully. If the bully is someone they either like or love, they will, out of loyalty, take the bully’s word over yours. It won’t matter that the bully is in the wrong.

People tend to believe those they care about and disbelieve those they don’t care about or don’t know. Even worse, they may know that the person is, in fact, an abuser but still side with them against you if they like them even a little more than they do you.

Bullies aren’t stupid. They know what they’re doing. Often, they will act as a great person around everyone else. In public, they present as fine, exemplary, upstanding, and respectable human beings. But only the poor, demonized victim knows the truth.

Victims are usually stressed and worn down. If the bully has gaslighted them for long enough, he has persuaded they victim himself that it’s all his fault. Many targets of bullying have had their realities distorted over time, and it’s the worst thing to happen to them.

Many victims believe themselves to be horrible people and deserving of the torture inflicted upon them because many times, they’re blamed and made responsible for their suffering. That’s what bullying and gaslighting do after so long. They brainwash you!

That’s why Bullying and Gaslighting are such a deadly combination. Bullies and their allies force victims to believe that they’re so inherently evil that the only thing they can do is cause anger, hurt, and hatred.

Here’s what life is like for a target of such atrociousness:

You try. You try so hard to be the best person you can be. Yet you’re tortured and tormented by bullies every day. Deep inside, you know you’re a great person, but no one else can see inside you to make that determination.

Because your reputation is in the toilet, others consistently attack you because bullies have defamed you for so long that everyone believes the lies. And no one will tell you what you did wrong, nor will they tell you how to fix it.

And because of the constant attacks, you live in continuous fight-or-flight mode. You can’t help but stay on the defense, and you’re a mess of emotions.

Because bullying leaves you so emotional, you cry, even sob- sometimes uncontrollably! You lash out at the bullies who attack you and at the bystanders who join them after they’ve all pushed you so far.

Although your emotional reaction is entirely normal and natural under the circumstances, they all have the nerve, the audacity, the chutzpah- to get angry at you! That’s right! They get pissed at you for the emotional outburst and use it against you.

Even worse, they use any signs of self-defense against you. And they use it as their confirmations that you’re the bad guy, you’re too sensitive, too emotional, or that you’re crazy.

So, they punish you by escalating the bullying. How can a target- one who’s bullied to pieces and to the point of exhaustion- possibly defend himself against such forces if they don’t have any knowledge about how bullies operate and what they can do to counter them?

Understand that this is the plight of the target.

In bully-speak, targets are not allowed to be themselves. They’re not allowed to stand up for themselves nor speak out against the abuse. In the minds of bullies and bystanders, targets should take it, because they’re beneath everyone else and they deserve it. Bullies expect them to eat crap and enjoy it- just take it with a smile and a yes sir/ma’am, then ask for seconds.

Here’s another scenario to be aware of:

In some cases, you’re so marginalized and have so many people after you that when you’re in a crowded hallway and someone sneaks up behind you and wallops you between the shoulder blades hard enough to knock the wind out of you, and you look behind you to see who it was that hit you, no one points them out. The person who hit you only cowardly fades in the sea of people.

bullied victim crying tears

As you look around for your attacker, everyone in the crowd is eyeing you with a mixture of hostility, hilarity, and contempt. And you know what they’re thinking just by the way their eyes seem to shoot firey bullets at you.

They all look at you as if to say,
“Ha! Yeah! We know who hit you! Like we’ll ever tell you!” or
“So? Whadaya gonna do? Accuse all of us? Right! Like you’d have even a chance of making it home in one piece if you did!”

Maybe someone steals from you or keys your car. Again, you don’t know who to suspect because there are so many people out to hurt you. There’s no way you can pinpoint a specific person.

Understand that this is what it’s like once the bullying reaches a certain point. It’s as if the bullying has now taken on a life of its own. Because the idea of tormenting you seems to be so ingrained in everyone around you- bullies, bystanders, even authority figures- that they can no longer help themselves.

Anytime things have reached such a fever pitch, they’re signs that you’re in grave danger! In a situation like this, the bullying has escalated to a hazardous level, and it likely won’t get better but only worse. Your only recourse is to leave the environment and make a new start somewhere else.

Leave now while you still have your health- and maybe your life! Because if the bullies or their minions don’t kill you first, the stress of it will!