The mere exposure effect is a principle about how a person’s attitude towards something or someone changes as they become more familiar. Simply put, we like things we recognize. If we have been exposed to something several times (hello advertising!), we start to develop positive feelings about the product or service. Or the most eloquent example: the journey from being indifferent to a song when you first hear it to a few months later considering the summer blockbuster your favorite song.
(This is also where we move from “know” to “like” on the “know-like-trust” scale, but this is a discussion for another time.)
I’ve talked before about how, in order to be unique in your thinking, you need to get into contexts where your thinking is stretched and developed. Let’s take it one level higher: what would happen to your professional development if you got more exposure to actively work for you? Let me explain:
If you are smart about the type of content you consume and the contexts you put yourself in, sooner or later these will be familiar to you, even if they were initially exciting, tantalising or inaccessible. And what you do a lot, you get good at. So what would happen if you suddenly only embraced things that stretch your own creativity or intellect? My guess is that the more you are exposed to that kind of content – or situations, it slowly but surely goes from “wow” to “ordinary” – and to: “I could do that too”, and ultimately to “I could do this MY way!”. Boom! That’s where I want you! In this playground that you once thought was too cool for you, which is certainly just as exciting now – but not in any way inaccessible. Because the more you hang out there, the less “big deal” it becomes.
So how should you do it in practice? And what are you going to do with it? The easy part of this mindset is to consume better content. The harder part is actually putting yourself in physical contexts that challenge you. It takes courage and sometimes comes with a heavy heart and sweaty palms. But only in the beginning. More exposure effect, baby! The more often you do it, the more positive you become about it. And sure enough, you’re the one they want to visit!
You’ve probably heard the expression: “you become like the five people you spend the most time with”. This is a similar thought: “you become as smart as what you are exposed to”. Pretty cool when you think about it.