Mere Exposure EffectOpen Access

Mere Exposure Effect

We like things more as they become more familiar to us

We’re evolutionarily wired to distrust the unfamiliar. But the more we’re exposed to it without harm, the less of a threat it actually turns out to be.

Zajonc (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study

Setup

22 students were shown a range of graduate yearbook photographs a varying number of times for 2 seconds each. They were then asked how much out of 7 they liked each person.

Results

Results showed that the more times they’d seen a given graduate photo, the more they liked them.

Study graph

Key Takeaways

Expose the unknown within the known.

Create trust for new, unfamiliar products by sample-bundling with existing products. UK supermarket, Waitrose did this expertly when it first introduced kiwi berries, managing consumer unfamiliarity by bundling a small free sample with large packs of trusted blueberries. This approach is known as a Foot In The Door.

Takeaway image

Exposure first. Behavior change second.

Reduce people’s Risk Aversion by taking a staged approach to rolling out new ideas or policies. Instead of starting by looking to change behavior, just expose people to some introductory aspect of it, using the Spacing Effect to spread experiences out across time and environment. Let it become familiar for a while before making requests.

Takeaway image

Overcome your own Confirmation Bias...

...by exposing yourself to new viewpoints. Though you may not agree with all you hear, you'll develop a skill to see common ground in an increasingly-polarized world.

Takeaway image
Takeaway image
Mere Exposure Effect

Mere Exposure Effect

We like things more as they become more familiar to us

We’re evolutionarily wired to distrust the unfamiliar. But the more we’re exposed to it without harm, the less of a threat it actually turns out to be.

The study

Setup

22 students were shown a range of graduate yearbook photographs a varying number of times for 2 seconds each. They were then asked how much out of 7 they liked each person.

Results

Results showed that the more times they’d seen a given graduate photo, the more they liked them.

study graph
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In detail

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We make very different decisions based on how a fact is presented

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We feel more negative when losing something than positive when we gain it

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We tend to accept the option pre-chosen for us

Anchoring

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What we see first affects our judgement of everything thereafter

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We make knee-jerk spontaneous decisions that can cause regretful damage

Dynamic Norms

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We’re more likely to change if we can see a new behavior developing

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Our choices are determined by the information we're shown

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