The effect of stimulus discriminability on the mere exposure effect: Why more variability in the design of cigarette health warnings is needed.

Publisher:
International Ergonomics Association.
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Citation:
The Proceedings of the 19th Triennial Congress of the International Ergonomics Association. Melbourne, 9-14 August, 2015, 2015, pp. 1 - 8
Issue Date:
2015
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The mere exposure effect refers to the observation that repeated, unreinforced exposure to a stimulus increases affective evaluations of that stimulus. An abundance of previous mere exposure research has utilised neutral, meaningless stimuli, with few studies using emotional stimuli. However, it is highly plausible that the stimuli used in these studies were not truly emotional. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine the effect of repeated exposure on liking ratings of images which had inherent emotional properties, namely valence and arousal. Three experiments took place. Experiment 1 used neutral yet meaningful images to obtain a baseline but surprisingly, no significant mere exposure effect was found. Experiment 2 then used images differing in valence and arousal in which a significant effect was found for the negative high arousal images only. Guided by these findings, Experiment 3 then used negative high arousal images that have greater societal application, namely cigarette health warning images. Strikingly, a significant mere exposure effect was again found. It is argued that stimulus discriminability played a vital role in the occurrence of the mere exposure effect, such that a significant effect was found only when the stimuli were of similar content to one another. Recommendations were made that the design of cigarette health warnings need to have more variability in the content that is depicted to prevent increases in affective evaluations from occurring.
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