Simple exposure effect: what is it and how is it expressed in psychology

Have you ever had something (eg, a song) that you liked more and more as you listened to it more and more? Or even with someone? This has an explanation according to social psychology; this is the so-called Simple exposure effect.

The simple effect of exposure was discovered by Robert Boleslaw Zajonc, an American social psychologist. This effect is that the more we expose ourselves to something, the more we will like it. However, some authors suggest that this only happens when the initial attitude towards the stimulus or object is favorable.

In this article, we will know the origin of this effect, some of the conditions that will influence its occurrence and the possible causes of its occurrence.

    The simple effect of exposure

    The simple effect of exposure is a psychological phenomenon which, whether we like it for a particular stimulus or for a particular person, increases the more we are exposed to it, that is, the more we are exposed to it. expose, the more we will like it. This effect is specific to social psychology, which sometimes also called the “familiarity principle”.

    The effect of simple exposure was originally described by RB Zajonc (1968); Zajonc exhibited his discovery, along with others, in a work devoted to changing attitudes, in which he argued that attitudes are formed by how often we are exposed to a stimulus.

    The effect of Zajonc’s simple exposure facilitated new avenues of research within the framework of the experimental psychology of emotion.

    RB Zajonc’s works

    On the basis of his work on the simple effect of exposure, Zajonc supports the hypothesis that “the simple repeated exposure of a subject to a stimulus is a sufficient condition to increase the positive attitude towards this stimulus”. This effect it appears even when the presentation conditions of the stimulus prevent its conscious identification.

    Zajonc’s hypothesis involved questioning the theoretical postures of the time (1960s) and asserted that attitudes could be formed simply from the frequency with which a stimulus is presented.

    However, researchers in social psychology at that time already felt that the more we know about a stimulus, the more likely our attitude towards it will be positive the favorable.

    Experimental procedure

    To experimentally study the simple effect of exposure, we proceeded to expose subjects to our affective stimuli for very short periods of time; after this presentation, several new stimuli were shown to the subject, Of similar characteristics, between which the stimuli exposed in the first phase were inserted.

    The simple effect of exposure became evident when the subject made significantly more positive evaluations of the objects initially exposed than of the set of stimuli that were first presented in the final evaluation phase.

      The factors that determine it

      Several factors determine the simple effect of exposure:

      1. Type of stimulus

      The effect is favorably induced with stimuli of all kinds: words, images, facial expressions, ideograms, polygons, etc.

      However, if only abstract figures are used, this does not happen, or if it does, it is subtly.

      2. Complexity of stimuli

      The effect is greater with complex stimuli than with simple ones; This phenomenon has been shown in several studies.

      3. Number of exhibitions

      The higher the number of exposures, the greater the effect; however, this is not a linear effect; after 10 or 20 exposures, the changes that occur are minor.

      To illustrate this, Zajonc (1972) alludes to an increasing logarithmic relation until you hit a “ceiling effect”. Other researchers refer to a relationship that can represent an inverted U shape.

      4. Exposure sequence

      The simple effect of exposure will vary depending on whether the stimuli used are the same or whether they vary; Although few studies have been carried out on this subject and the results are diverse, it is known that studies which have used heterogeneous (various) stimuli to produce the effect of a single exposure, provide less robust results.

      5. Duration of exposure

      There are few studies that have compared the effect of stimulus duration when producing the simple effect of exposure. One author in particular, Hamid (1973), used an inverted U to explain the relationship between duration and effect obtained from his studies.

      6. Recognition of stimuli

      The fact that the stimulus is familiar to the person (ie the stimulus is “recognized”) is not necessary for the simple effect of exposure to occur, and several studies have shown this. There are even studies that point out that recognition or familiarity reduces the effect.

      7. Interval between exposure and testing

      here there is a disparity of opinions and results; Although some studies do not find changes in whether the interval between testing and exposure is a few minutes or several weeks, other studies claim that there is an increase in the simple effect of exposure when the phase is delayed. exposure.

      Causes of the effect

      In more recent studies, Zajonc (2000) is of the opinion that the mere effect of exposure is not motivated by subjective factors (for example, by familiarity of the stimulus, as we have discussed), but by the objective history of the exhibitions itself. “; in fact, the effect of simple exposure is more constant under subliminal conditions. The author suggests the possibility that the effect is mediated by some sort of classical conditioning.

      Thus, in the simple effect of exposure, repeated exposure to certain stimuli could be understood as a conditioned stimulus (CE), While the response preference would be the conditioned response (CR). This CR is analogous to the unconditional response (IR), which is caused by the tendency to innate exploration.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Bargh, JA (2001). The psychology of the sea. In JA Bargh and DK Apsley (Eds.), Unraveling the complexities of social life (pp. 25-37). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
      • Martínez, F., Sánchez and Campoy, G. (2003). Effect of a single exposure with presentations below the target threshold. Electronic Journal of Motivation and Emotion, 6 (14-15).
      • Zajonc, RB (1968). Attitudinal effects of simple exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9 (2), 1-27.
      • Zajonc, RB (2000). Feel and think: close the debate on the independence of affection. In JP Forgas (Ed.) Sentiment and thought: the role of affection in social cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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