What is the halo effect and how it distorts the assessment of European projects
The halo effect is a cognitive bias well known to psychologists. The halo effect happens when the general assessment by an evaluator is biased by the evaluation of a specific feature salient for the evaluator. For example in a recruitment interview the interviewer can consider intelligent, resilient, etc. a candidate just because he/she finds the candidate nice.
The halo effect can occur in both direction, bringing to overestimate but also to underestimate a person or object. In the last case we talk of devil effect or revers halo effect.
In my experience, the devil effect occurs often in the evaluation of European funded projects. I realize because management and valorization are transversal activities common to every project, so I structure them almost the same in all the projects I submit on the same call. So all my projects should get the same scores on these award criteria. In practice I see that their scores differ and are related to the score assigned to the project idea. If the evaluator does not like the project idea, then he/she will give a low score also to management and dissemination.
In projects written by other project writers I have also found evidence of the halo effect. Projects with clear pitfalls on management, budget or dissemination have obtained high scores on these criteria (and finally approved) because the evaluator appreciated the project idea.
As this kind of bias is quite frequent, in the application form project writers must pay the greatest possible attention and describe at best their project idea and its relevance for the program goals and priorities, as these are the first information read by the evaluators and the ones on which the halo or devil effect develop.
This article should be read together with Silly talk: nonsenses by the evaluators of EU funded projects and Why good projects are rejected?