The Science of Familiarity: How Frequent Exposure Builds Trust and Liking

Years ago, researchers at the California Institute of Technology used brain imaging experiments to record changes in the brains of people exposed to uncertain environments. They found that when people are in an uncertain environment, two areas of the brain, the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex, become hyperactive.

In other words, when we are in a strange environment, the brain is actually awakened in two states-fear (amygdala); control ourselves and calm ourselves (orbitofrontal cortex).

When the amygdala is activated, our body will also release a large amount of cortisol and activate the sympathetic nervous system, which will put us in a state of alert stress, which will increase heart rate variability and consume a lot of energy, leaving us not feeling well. Therefore, some people blush and their heart beats faster when facing unfamiliar people.

And if we want others to trust us and be willing to interact with us, we need to let them establish enough familiarity with us. Psychologists once conducted an experiment. They first used tests to identify primary school students with higher shyness index and asked them to observe different faces. The researchers used electroencephalography scanning to observe and record the brain activity of the primary school students.

The researchers found that when faced with unfamiliar and difficult-to-recognize faces, children with higher shyness scores had weaker activity in the social cortex of the brain, while the amygdala in the limbic system, which is responsible for anxiety and vigilance, appeared weaker. Very active.

Likewise, if we want others to be more willing to engage with us, we need to eliminate this instinctive reaction. So, in what ways can we achieve this?

A simpler way is to appear in front of the other person frequently. Frequently appearing in front of the other person can induce the other person to have some good impressions of us. This is called the “pure exposure effect” in psychology – if a stimulus is presented to us enough times, we will like it more and more.

Psychologist Seians conducted an experiment on this, asking the students to see photos of the other person’s face several times, and then investigated the extent to which they had a favorable impression of the other person.

The experimenter prepared 12 different headshot photos of college graduates, and then randomly selected a few pictures to show to the students. In order to avoid deliberate interference, the researchers explained to these students at the beginning of the experiment: “This is an experiment about visual memory. The purpose is to measure how well you remember the photos you saw.”

The real purpose of the experiment is to understand the relationship between the number of times a photo is viewed and the degree of favorability. The number of times each photo was viewed was 0 times, 1 time, 2 times, 5 times, 10 times, 25 times, etc. Two photos were viewed according to different conditions, randomly sampled, for a total of 86 times.

Experimental results show that the number of views is directly proportional to the degree of favorability. When students were asked which photo they liked best, most chose the one that had appeared to them the most.

That is, when the number of views of a photo increases, regardless of the content of the photo, the favorability rating increases significantly. This largely demonstrates the “pure contact effect.”

Professor James Cutting of Cornell University conducted another experiment on the pure exposure effect to prove that one of the reasons why some famous artworks are famous may be that they are exposed to more times.

During the lecture, he kept showing impressionist works to the undergraduates for 2 seconds each time. Some of these paintings are classics, and some are less well-known but are no less than classics. Professor Cutting showed the latter in front of students four times as often as the former. It was found that these students preferred the latter.

Some celebrities are very pursuing the chance of being photographed, because the more people watch them, they will think they are good-looking, and there is also the principle of “pure contact effect” behind this.
Now, do you know how important it is to become familiar with others?

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