An Insight a Day

The Monet Effect

I'm currently reading How to Not Die Alone by Logan Ury, which is about dating and finding love, with a bunch of behavioral science sprinkled all over. The passage below on the Monet Effect really struck me:

In Clueless, one of my all-time favorite movies, Tai, the new girl, asks Cher, the most popular girl in school, what she thinks about their classmate Amber. Cher says, “She’s a full-on Monet. It’s like a painting, see. From far away, it’s okay, but up close it’s a big ol’ mess.”

I call this error in judgment the Monet Effect. When we have only a rough perception of someone, our brain, hoping for a great outcome, fills in all the gaps optimistically. People seem way more desirable than they actually are. It’s only later, when they transform into real people standing in front of us, that we see the flaws.

We can see this play out in the corporate world. When companies search for a new CEO, they can choose between promoting an internal candidate or hiring an external one. Research into these decisions found that companies who decide to hire externally have sky-high expectations of the candidates. When you evaluate external candidates, you know only the broad details about them. They tell you about their wins. Internal candidates, you know more intimately; you are familiar with their successes and their failures. The Monet Effect helps explain why, when compared to internal candidates, external CEOs are often paid more but perform worse.

A gentle reminder to stop looking at things through rose-colored glasses. No one is perfect. We all have our flaws, we're only human, after all, and I especially like the CEO example as I've seen it happen many times.