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No.28 The Mere Exposure Effect

The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.

To put it simply, we grow to like something more, the more we come into contact with it. Even if our first reaction was to dislike it. Familiarity correlates with likeability.

Robert Zajonc tested the mere-exposure effect on 1,000s of subjects. Some of his tests were verbal and auditory. For example, he tested how people responded to nonsense words like zebulons or worbus. The more often these words were repeated to the subjects, the more favourably they responded to them.

In other tests, he showed subjects symbols that looked like Chinese characters but were actually complete nonsense. The more often the subjects were exposed to the nonsense characters, the more likely they were to have positive feelings toward them.

In retail, whether it be bricks and mortar or ecommerce, the mere exposure effect can be a powerful ally.

  1. Repeat, repeat, repeat - The more you feature your USP, talk about your USP, rave about your USP and display your USP, the more familiar shoppers and consumers will become.
  2. Frequent trialling - The more frequently a product been tasted, for example, the better it was liked.
  3. Data and mere exposure - Make sure that you understand the limitations of big data and Web analytics. When looking at sales performance data, don’t forget to factor in the mere-exposure effect.

By understanding what the mere-exposure effect is and how it works, your brand can develop a significant advantage. More exposure leads to familiarity, which leads to comfortability, which leads to more brand preference and sales uplifts.

About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

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