Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Myth Busters [Familiarity/ Contempt]

¡Hola! Everybody...
Tomorrow I will be in Albany doing some politicking, so I’ll be out all day. It’s lobbying, but technically, I’m not allowed to lobby in my capacity as a worker in a non-profit organization. So, we call it “advocacy.”

We’re facing huge cuts at a time when people are most in need of our services. Welcome to Korporate Kristianity. You might think you’re only a temporarily embarrassed rich person in waiting, but the facts say otherwise.

BTW, check out my opinion piece over at the online magazine, Subversify (click here). I tackle the nuclear crisis unfolding in Japan.

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-=[ Contemptuous Familiarity ]=-

Familiarity breeds contempt... and children.

-- Mark Twain

It’s a well-worn truth that familiarity breeds contempt... right? Right?


While it’s true enough that a person’s flaws can be more easily discerned the more you come to know them, all things being equal, familiarity by itself is more likely to breed comfort than contempt. That’s a more readable translation of the more researcher Robert Zajonc’s more clinical, “Repeated exposure is a sufficient condition of attitude adjustment.”

Zajonc gave experimental subjects a set of seven-letter Turkish words and, in a similar study, a set of Chinese characters. His subjects had no idea what the words meant, but they consistently said a word meant something nicer if they had seen it repeatedly. Likewise, after being shown yearbook photographs of male strangers, people said they liked the men whose photos had already been shown to them.

Since Zajonc’s studies, conducted in the 1960s, literally hundreds of independent studies have confirmed his findings. A meta-analysis of all these studies taken in the 1980s by another researcher concluded that Zajonc was right. There was one caveat, however: if the same stimulus is presented too often or for too long a time on each occasion, familiarity may breed boredom. This is especially to occur in young children who tend to prefer new words or pictures to those they have seen before.

Even for adults, of course, more encounters with someone or something you find distasteful to begin with aren’t going to change your mind or warm your heart. But where you have no aversion the maxim seems to be true -- as advertisers and political consultants know too well -- that we like things more as we get used to them.

In fact, if you were to follow the conservative talking points on any given day, they use this truth to great effect. Say it enough times and people will cozy to the idea that President Obama is a Muslim/ socialist/ Nigerian/ communist/ illegal alien/ anti-Christ. This is especially true if you’re predisposed to see African Americans or people of color as the “other.”

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization...

1 comment:

  1. If you could have convinced my ex-wife of these studies..!


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[un]Common Sense