UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The cognitive-affective mechanisms of the mere exposure effect Pestonji, Natasha


The mere exposure effect (MEE) is the finding that repeated, unreinforced exposure to a stimulus results in increased preference for that stimulus (Zajonc, 1968). The MEE is often discussed colloquially as a fairly robust effect. However, empirical research and meta-analyses demonstrate that the presence and size of the effect depends on several methodological variables and modalities (e.g., Bornstein, 1989). My dissertation was motivated by a desire to examine and compare the underlying assumptions of the primary contemporary models of the MEE: the perceptual fluency-attribution model (PFA; Bornstein & D’Agostino, 1992; 1994) and the hedonic fluency model (HFM; Winkielman et al., 2003). Both models discuss how repeated exposure increases processing fluency, and how this change in fluency leads to liking or preference when asked to make a preference decision. Over 7 experiments, I examined the MEE and tested the assumptions of these models. Experiments 1-3 examined whether the same MEE occurs for stimuli that are subliminal and supraliminal (i.e., below or above the threshold of conscious perception). Experiments 2-3 also examined the impact of identity pre-exposures (i.e., pre-exposing the same stimulus participants are later asked to rate) and categorical pre-exposures (i.e., pre-exposing category members of the stimulus participants are later asked to rate). After finding no evidence of a MEE in Experiments 1-3, I changed the direction of my research, and conceptually replicated two past experiments that showed strong MEEs in Experiments 4-5. Experiment 6 examined the impact of supraliminal pre-exposures, as well as the test-retest and inter-rater reliability of the MEE measures used in my other experiments. Finally, Experiment 7 replicated and extended the MEE found in Experiment 4, and examined the impact of valenced stimuli on the MEE. The findings of this dissertation elucidate critical methodological variables necessary to find the MEE, provide new insights into the cognitive-affective underpinnings of the effect, and determine new methods and avenues for investigating the MEE.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International