Experiments with People: Revelations from Social Psychology

By Robert P. Abelson; Kurt P. Frey et al. | Go to book overview
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11
Familiarity Breeds
Liking: The Positive
Effects of Mere
Exposure

“The song is best esteemed with which our ears are most acquainted.

—William Byrd (1543–1623), English composer


BACKGROUND

Which of the following Turkish words do you imagine mean something positive and which something negative: Iktitaf, Jandara, Afworbu, Biwojni, Quadra? Well, to be honest, they are not really Turkish words. They are made-up words used by Robert Zajonc (1968) in a classic demonstration of the mere exposure effect—the tendency to like stimuli better the more one encounters them. Zajonc (whose name is improbably pronounced “Zcience”) flashed such words to participants 1, 2, 5, 10, or 25 times, having them pronounce each one as they went along. Afterward, they rated how positive or negative they thought the meaning of each word was. He found, as expected, that participants rated the more frequently presented words more positively. He also tested for the same effect using other stimuli, such as those that look to the untrained eye like Chinese calligraphy. He flashed each for 2 seconds a variable number of times, and again found that those presented more often were preferred. Ever the enthusiastic experimentalist, Zajonc also helped to conduct a logistically more complicated study that involved people as stimuli (Saegart and others, 1973). Participants moved from one room to another tasting a variety of liquids, from yummy Kool-Aid concoctions to yucky mixtures of vinegar,

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