The Familiarity Principle

Bharat Kalluri / 2021-03-04

The familiarity principle or the Mere exposure effect is a psychological phenomena by which people tend to develop preference merely because they are familiar with them.

This is one of those things I knew happens to people (myself included), but did not know there was research proving this. There are a lot of experiments done to prove the familiarity principle. One of the experiments I found interesting was with the Chinese characters. People who did not know chinese were shown random chinese characters, they were told that the characters were adjectives and asked people to guess if it was a positive or a negative adjective. People rated positive to the characters which they have previously seen / had some familiarity with.

There was another interesting study done. In this study there was a group of people who were asked to complete an experiment with a partner, here the person and the partner would have a conversation etc... And there was another group who performed the experiment alone, and after sometime, the partner would walk in and ask a favour (in this case, to proofread their essay). If the partner is a stranger, then the acceptance rate was 26%, but if they had a talk earlier (during the experiment in this case), then the acceptance rate was 49%. But this seems intuitive. It gets interesting with the third group. In this group, the rule was that the partners for the experiment still get to do the experiment together, but do not talk to each other during the experiment. And later on the partner would ask if the person is interested in proof reading their essay. People were just as likely to say yes to this person compared to the group which had a full conversation (group one).

The Familiarity Principle can be seen in a lot of places in our lives. We seem to befriend people who we meet multiple times, play games we have already played, start liking songs because the radio keeps playing them all the time etc. This is a tactic heavily used in marketing. Armed with this knowledge, it will be easier to guess when we are being manipulated by the familiarity principle.

References

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