Are people really this simple?
“I have seen you somewhere before. You are similar to me. I like you....so I will do whatever you want”
The theory of Mere exposure clarifies that repeated exposure to someone or something, will result in an increase in liking for that person or object. Interestingly research shows that the individual does not even need to consciously recognise the repeated exposure in order for liking to occur (Bornstien, 1989); this demonstrates the strength of exposure effects and how they can apply to many situations. Once the liking of a person has been established through mere exposure; it is more likely that an individual will comply with a request from this person, (Goe et al, 2003)
Burger et al (2001) saw participants complete a task whilst in a room with a confederate. Confederates either engaged in conversation with the participant, made no effort of conversation (mere presence) , or in the control condition the participant completed the task alone. Upon leaving the laboratory the confederate asked participants for a supposedly “small” favour; "Please read through my essay and give me a page of written feedback tomorrow". Both experimental conditions elicited similar amounts of compliance to this request (47% & 46%), which was significantly more than in the control condition (26.3%). Greater compliance was observed when participants were exposed to the confederate prior to the request; thus evidencing a mere exposure effect.
The amount of compliance between experimental conditions did not significantly differ; suggesting conversational interaction does not have an effect on compliance. Opposing research showed participating in shared tasks that require conversation, produce more compliance, than tasks completed merely in the presence of others (Collins & Miller, 1994). Whereas, Burger et al (2001) hypothesized that the reason for the exposure effect in their study, was due to participants feeling “fleeting attractions” towards confederates; mediated by simply being in the same situation.
In experiment 3, the construct of liking was manipulated; experimenters induced an aspect of similarity between participant and confederate. By use of adjective check-lists participants described their personality. Research has shown that individuals have greater liking for those that are similar to them and therefore are more likely to comply with their requests (Emswiller et al, 1971). Table 1 represents the results of experiment 3, showing that similarity increased compliance.
The results of Burger et al (2001) emphasize that the mere exposure effect can be enhanced by manipulation of ‘liking’, but not by manipulation of interaction type. Suggesting the combination of certain persuasive techniques such as similarity, liking and mere exposure can further increase compliance.
Bornstein, R. F. (1989). Exposure and affect: Overview and meta-analysis of research, 1968–1987. Psychological bulletin, 106(2), 265.
Burger, J. M., Soroka, S., Gonzago, K., Murphy, E., & Somervell, E. (2001). The effect of fleeting attraction on compliance to requests. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(12), 1578-1586.
Emswiller, T., Deaux, K., & Willits, J. E. (1971). Similarity, sex, andrequests for small favors.Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1, 284-291.
Goei, R., Lindsey, L. L. M., Boster, F. J., Skalski, P. D., & Bowman, J. M. (2003). The mediating roles of liking and obligation on the relationship between favors and compliance. Communication Research, 30(2), 178-197.