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UBC Undergraduate Research

Does Familiarity Breed Contempt? : A Study on the Mere Exposure Effect Lau, Davy; Tran, Thu (Rosie); Pestonji-Dixon, Natasha; Graf, Peter 2020-04

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Does Familiarity Breed Contempt?A Study on the Mere Exposure EffectBy: Davy Lau Thu (Rosie) Tran, BSc Natasha Pestonji-Dixon, PhD Candidate Peter Graf, PhDMemory & Cognition LabUBC Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference, 2020 1This presentation is about a study that examined the mere exposure effect, a phenomenon in the field of cognitive psychology. What is the Mere Exposure Effect?● “Mere repeated exposure of the individual to a stimulus object enhances its attitude toward it” (Zajonc, 1968)● Basically, “The more you see it, the more you like it”Cred: Davy Lau,,_before_going_out_to_take_oath,_Jan._20,_2009.jpg2DAY 1: I HATE ME DAY 60: I LOVE METhe mere exposure effect was first defined in a study by Robert Zajonc in 1968. Essentially, this effect states that the more often you see something, the more you tend to like it. Mere Exposure Effect Findings (Bornstein, 1989)● The mere exposure effect has been widely studied across multiple:○ Stimulus variables, e.g. nonsense words (Berryman, 1984), line drawings (Stang & O’Connell, 1974)○ Presentation variables, e.g. number of exposures (Zajonc et al., 1972), exposure duration (Harrison & Zajonc, 1970)○ Measurement variables, e.g. time delay between exposure and rating (Zajonc et al., 1972), type of rating (Saegert & Jellison, 1970)● Subliminal exposure: Effect is stronger than in supraliminal exposure  (Bornstein, 1989)○ Subliminal means that the exposure is so brief, it does not register in conscious awareness● Lack of research using negatively valenced stimuli      Cred: Davy Lau, effect has been investigated in numerous studies. A meta-analysis was published by Bornstein in 1989 to establish patterns in the findings of these studies. In reality, the mere exposure effect is not as consistent as people tend to think. It varies across stimulus variables, presentation variables, and measurement variables. Overall however, the effect is stronger in subliminal exposure than supraliminal exposure. One field of interest that has not been studied extensively is the strength of the effect when negatively valenced stimuli are used (stimuli that are repulsive - does greater exposure lead to them being less repulsive?).The Theory Underlying the Effect● Why does this effect occur? The fluency attribution model (Jacoby & Dallas, 1981)○ More exposure to a stimulus = more fluently (easily) accesses mental representation of stimulus○ Fluency interpreted as attraction or liking!4Cred: Wikimedia Commons, theory behind the mere exposure effect is the Fluency Attribution Model. This model suggests that when a stimulus is exposed to someone more frequently, their mental representation of this stimulus is easier to access. This fluency in accessing the mental representation is interpreted by the cognitive system. When the cognitive system cannot attribute the increased fluency to an identifiable source (as is the case with subliminal repeated exposure), it can be interpreted as an attraction or liking of the stimulus.Purpose of Current Study● To replicate the mere exposure effect ● Why? The effect is inconsistent: can differ in strength across stimulus, presentation, and measurement variables (Bornstein, 1989).○ In many conditions, the mere exposure effect is simply not present ○ Determining if the conditions in the current study produce a strong mere exposure effect willprovide the foundation for future studies using the same conditions● Issues with previous studies○ Inconsistent presentation time of stimulus○ Small numbers of stimuli○ Unstandardized stimuli● The current study addresses these issues with:○ Consistent, computerized presentation time of stimulus (15 ms)○ 40 stimuli used in each version of the experiment (and 3 versions used in the study overall)○ Stimuli all come from the same database of yearbook photos (same pose, clothing, background, etc.)5The central purpose of the study is to replicate the mere exposure effect. Although the effect has been studied extensively under numerous conditions (across various stimulus, presentation, and measurement variables), the effect is actually absent in many of these conditions. The effect is widely reported, but not widely found. In fact, the investigators of the current study conducted the exact same study, but with polygons as the stimuli (instead of yearbook photos in the current study), and found no effect. Despite the vast literature on this effect, a replication is necessary to know more about the conditions under which this effect occurs. As well, by replicating (and finding) an effect with the current study conditions, this would provide a basis for future studies on the effect to follow these same conditions.There have also been methodological issues with previous studies that the current study addresses.Methods● N = 124 (undergraduate students at UBC)● Stimuli: Female yearbook photos ● Independent variable = # of exposures● Dependent variable = “liking” rating of stimulus on an 8-point scale● Hypothesis: As is consistent with the mere exposure effect, “The greater the number of exposures, the higher the rating”● Two phases: Exposure phase and Rating phase○ Exposure phase included a continuous recognition task with celebrity photos to keep attention on the screen while yearbook photo stimuli were subliminally presented.6The stimuli for this study were black-and-white female yearbook photos from the same photo database. The independent variable was the number of times a photo was subliminally exposed to the participants, and the dependent variable was the rating that each participant gave to the photo on an 8-point scale. The hypothesis was that a greater number of exposures to a photo would correlate with a higher rating.There were two phases to this experiment: The exposure phase was when the photos were subliminally presented. And the rating phase was when the photos were rated on an 8-point scale.Procedure: Exposure PhaseEach yearbook photo in the rating phase is flashed 0, 3, 9, or 15 times throughout the celebrity task. For a more detailed description, see the speaker notes! 7**Ongoing celebrity task: Participants are shown photos of celebrities, one-at-a-time, and asked to determine if the exact same photo had been displayed previously- Respond with yes-or-no on the computer- In between celebrity photos: Yearbook photos are flashed subliminally (for 15 ms, and sandwiched by two mask photos)A “mask” consisting of facial parts is displayed before and after the yearbook photo to ensure the photo is not consciously perceived- Each yearbook photo in the rating phase is flashed 0, 3, 9, or 15 times throughout the celebrity taskProcedure: Rating Phase8Each yearbook photo in the study appears one at a time during the rating phase, to be rated by the participant on an 8-point scale.The rating phase followed the exposure phase after a brief break to administer the instructions. Each photo in the experiment was then displayed on the screen one at a time. Participants rated photos on a scale of 1 to 8 on how much they like the person in the photo. 1 = “I don’t like this person”, 8 = “I really like this person”ResultsFigure 1. Mean Rating of Yearbook Photos vs Number of Exposures. A within-subjects ANOVA found a statistically significant difference in mean liking rating due to number of exposures, F(3, 123)=7.76, p<.001. There was a statistically significant difference between 0 and 3 exposures, 0 and 9 exposures, and 9 and 15 exposure. * means  p<.05.  Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.9The results showed that the photos exposed 3 and 9 times received higher liking ratings than those exposed 0 times. However, photos exposed 15 times received lower liking rating than those exposed 9 times. Discussion● The mere exposure effect was replicated● Overall, the greater number of exposures, the higher the rating● However, there is a limit to this effect. At 15 exposures, the rating is lower than at 9 exposures.○ Potential explanation: After displaying a yearbook photo 15 times, the exposure may no longer be subliminal - It may be supraliminal. Supraliminal stimuli have a weaker mere exposure effect than subliminal stimuli (Bornstein, 1989).○ Consistent with previous studies: i.e. Mere Exposure Effect was found to increase from 0 to 9 exposures, but decrease from 9 to 243 exposures (Kail & Freeman, 1973)○ Overall, effect is greatest when a small number of exposures is used (Bornstein, 1989)Cred:,          Cred: Meme Creator10Previous studies have also shown that the effect weakens when there are many exposures of the stimulus. This could be because when there are too many exposures, the stimulus becomes supraliminally exposed (the participant consciously perceives the stimulus). As discussed before, the meta-analysis by Bornstein in 1989 found that the mere exposure effect is stronger in subliminal exposure than in supraliminal exposure.Future Directions● Goal of the current study was to:       1) Replicate the mere exposure effect.2) If replicated successfully, use the same conditions to explore the strength of the mere exposure effect on negative valence stimuli.● Lack of research on negative valence stimuli○ If something is repulsive, does being exposed to it more make you like it better?Cred:, Yellow Octopus, the current study successfully replicated the exposure, the conditions from this study can be used on further studies, such as those investigating the mere exposure effect on negative valence stimuli. As discussed previously, this is a field of research that is currently lacking in the literature. We are currently conducting a pilot study to see which of the yearbook photos are ranked as most emotionally appealing and least emotionally appealing. These photos at the extremes of liking/disliking would then be employed in a subsequent study examining the strength of the mere exposure effect from negative valence stimuli.Fun Fact!● The mere exposure effect has applications to social psychology! ● The closer you live to someone (and the more you see them), the more likely you’ll be friends!● A study (Festinger, Schachter, & Back, 1950) done in a new apartment complex found that:○ Neighbours were most likely to be friends○ Those living on different floors were least likely to be friends○ Those living near staircases or mailboxes had more friends!       Cred: Wallpaper Flare,        http s:// message from this presentation: Spend more time with the people you like, and they’ll like you back!Contact Information● Davy Lau, Research Assistant:● Natasha Pestonji-Dixon, Investigator: ● UBC Memory & Cognition Lab Website:, J. C. (1984). Interest and liking: Further sequential effects. Current Psychological Research & Reviews, 3(4), 39–42. doi: 10.1007/bf02686556Bornstein, R. F. (1989). Exposure and affect: Overview and meta-analysis of research, 1968–1987. Psychological Bulletin, 106(2), 265–289. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.106.2.265Festinger, L., Schachter, S., & Back, K. (1950). Social Pressures in Informal Groups. The American Catholic Sociological Review, 11(4), 268. doi: 10.2307/3707362Harrison, A. A., & Zajonc, R. B. (1970). The Effects of Frequency and Duration of Exposure on Response Competition and Affective Ratings. The Journal of Psychology, 75(2), 163–169. doi: 10.1080/00223980.1970.9923743Jacoby, L. L., & Dallas, M. (1981). On the relationship between autobiographical memory and perceptual learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 110(3), 306–340. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.110.3.30614ReferencesKail, R. V., & Freeman, H. R. (1973). Sequence redundancy, rating dimensions, and the exposure effect. Memory & Cognition, 1(4), 454–458. doi: 10.3758/bf03208908Saegert, S. C., & Jellison, J. M. (1970). Effects of initial level of response competition and frequency of exposure on liking and exploratory behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16(3), 553–558. doi: 10.1037/h0029952Stang, D. J., & O’Connell, E. J. (1974). The computer as experimenter in social psychological research. Behavior Research Methods & Instrumentation, 6(2), 223–231. doi: 10.3758/bf03200333Zajonc, R. B., Shaver, P., Tavris, C., & Kreveld, D. V. (1972). Exposure, satiation, and stimulus discriminability. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21(3), 270–280. doi: 10.1037/h0032357Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2, Pt.2), 1–27. doi: 10.1037/h002584815


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