Zajonc’s Mere Exposure Theory and Today’s indeference to human demise in the Media

This might be the biggest title I’ve had in my blog so far, and in a way the most scientific.

Well let me break it down for you guys, and in a way for me as well;

So first things first, who in Zajonc? Robert Zajonc was one of the great social Psychologists of the last century (fun factoid, he was actually considered by the 35th best psychologist of the 20th century in a survey on “Review of General Psychology“. Born in 1923 and passed away in December 2008. He dedicated is life to the field of psychology, and contributed greatly to our understanding of both social and cognitive processes.

Now, “Mere exposure Theory” later on I’ll try to explain it a little bit better and in more depth, but according to the website Changing Mindsthis theory is broadly explained as:

The more exposure we have to a stimulus, the more we will tend to like it. Familiarity breeds liking more than contempt. Things grow on us and we acquire tastes for things over time and repeated exposure.

And it was developed by our friend Zajonc back in 1968.

So, this was probably the oddest part of the title, since the second part is a bit self explanatory, and is going to be further explained in a bit.

In my University Studies I have a subject aptly named “Brain and Behavior” and while I was cramming for an upcoming exam, this theory resonated with me, it reminded me of something I’ve said in a post where I gave my opinion on the Paris terrorist attacks, where the body count of around 120 sounded like “not that big of a deal” (before criticizing this statement please read the post has there I explain what I mean, since even a single death is a big deal). And this got me thinking, and in a mere second or two, several world events that are complete barbaric events, that in many times expose the worse of human kind – events like the gang rape in Brazil where 30 men violated a single girl, the thousands of homicides that happen on a daily, the images of famine and disgrace, terrorist attack here there and everywhere) and how blunt we have became about it all, mere 24 hours after any event and we forgot all about it.

So my question is, have we became to familiarized to the human disgrace? Have events like these became the new normal, or even the butt of our cheap jokes? I mean, who hasnt laughed at the expense of a Nazi related joke, a racist joke, a war joke? All things that happened a long while ago and no longer fall under the category of “too soon” to joke about. Great now Ive started rambling. But back to the question at hand, has our multi media society made these events way to familiar(?) and therefore we have became too sutured to be able to even sympathize for more then the seconds after learning about them? Or even worse, have our little squabble and daily quests became suddenly more important? Post x pictures in Instagram, watching the latest Gannem Style? avoiding these matters with simple # ?

I’m not saying that supporting causes though social media is wrong, but if our action don’t reflect some kind of reflection on the matter, if our lives remain unchanged why should you even post the hashtag in first place?

Wow, I’ve rambled way more then expected and came to no conclusion at all, but in the spirit of studying to the finals I’m going to draw a conclusion that (hopefully) wraps everything neatly.

The “Mere exposure theory” accounts that familiarity to a stimulus -person, song, commercial product, etc – will increase the possibility of liking that subject, this is true to both positive and negative things, examples of this are prisoners that wish to return to prison or even Stockholm Syndrome. But over exposure can either block this stimulus or in extreme cases generate neurosis. So, has our multi media “big brother” like society made us way too familiarized with acts of barbaric inhumanity?


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