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.

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Results

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

np_read_2490885_000000

In detail

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

np_read_2490885_000000

In detail

Pairings

Conversion

Overcome change aversion with increasing exposure over time

Sudden, unexpected change can feel difficult to stomach, particularly when large in size or experienced by customers most sensitive to change, whether in character or by industry.

If you're rolling out a significant change, consider using the Mere Exposure Effect to slowly introduce the new concept and reduce Risk Aversion. The first exposure to the change should be light and ask little of the recipient. e.g. A poster on the wall or a light reference in an email.

But over time, consider ways to slowly increase the level of information and also the level of involvement. A show and tell, Q&A or digital opportunity to explore what is new at one's own pace.

Crucially, this should be done over time, so requires planning. The bigger the change, the more potentially-disruptive, and so the longer the window you should be working within.

What large, strategic changes are you planning down the line?

How might you start planning for these now with a series of small 'change exposures' that can grow gently over time?

Loosen attachments to the old with slowly-increasing familiarity to the new

We're predisposed to over-value our current efforts and feel uncomfortable about that which we're not familiar with, even if it might be a better route forward.

How can you expose those exhibiting sunk costs to new ideas by gently increasing exposure and familiarity to them over time?

Eventually, the better idea won't be so unfamiliar any more...

Connected to

Running workshops?

Mere Exposure Effect

is included in Box One of our physical workshop tool.
is included in Box Two of our physical workshop tool.
Box Two