Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Repetition in T.V. advertising


As annoying as I find this advert, I can’t help but notice how effective it is in getting you to remember the brand. The main reason for this is because it uses the persuasive technique of repetition. In this case, repetition is shown through the reiteration of the phrase “Wowcher”.

One of the ways that makes this repetition technique effective is through the mere exposure effect (Zajonc, 1968). According to the mere exposure effect, the repeated exposure of an object (or in this case a phrase) enhances attitudes toward it. Evidence for this was demonstrated in a series of experiments by Zajonc (1968).

In one of his experiments, participants were falsely told that purpose of the experiment was to study the learning of a foreign language and as part of the experiment they had to pay close attention to a set of nonsense Chinese like syllables. Unknown to the participants, experimenters altered the frequency that each these characters were shown to the participants. For each subject, some characters would be seen on multiple occasions where others would be shown only once. Finally, after being presented with the characters, participants were told that they had to guess the meaning of these characters on a good-bad scale.

According to the mere exposure effect, it would be expected that when a Chinese character was seen frequently, it should be rated more favourably than when it was only seen at a low frequency. This is indeed what was found, Zajonc’s research showed a highly significant relationship between exposure of the characters and favourability such that the more the characters were shown, the more positively they were rated. This was found for all characters but one as shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Average rated affective connotation of Chinese-like characters exposed with low and high frequencies

This effect was retested with further stimuli such as nonsense words and photos, each showing the same relationship.

So how does this relate to the ‘Wowcher’ advert? Well, with repeated exposure to the phrase, we develop a more favourable attitude towards the company. This makes the advert effective as it may make it more likely that we visit their website.


Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1-27. 

1 comment:

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