Do you buy into an idea just because you keep seeing it?
The development of a preference for something simply because you are familiar with it is called the mere exposure effect.
Also known as the familiarity principle, this can have widespread effects in schools, e.g., merely seeing an educational resource or being told about it may increase the likelihood of choosing it over other products.
As a reviewer of educational products I see lots of great resources and I also see plenty of mediocre ones. It isn’t always the best resources that schools actually adopt though because with pages of glossy adverts devoted to run-of-the-mill resources, overtime teachers get familiar with them and some buy them because they think they must be good.
Flicking through magazines and seemingly passing over adverts actually exposes us subliminally to products, words or pictures and these can have a surprisingly profound effect on how much we end up liking them.
It’s not just advertising and marketing either. We can see and hear about particular strategies and ideas at inset events, CPD conferences and informal chats in the staffroom. Regular exposure makes it more likely we will go for it and adopt it ourselves: it’s the fear of missing out (FOMO).
The most famous mere-exposure researcher was the psychologist Robert Zajonc. He tested the mere-exposure effect upon thousands of subjects and some of his tests were verbal and auditory. In one investigation he tested how people responded to nonsense words like zebulons or worbus and found the more often these words were repeated to the subjects, the more favourably they responded to them.
Now imagine some years ago how often people were exposed to hearing all about Brain Gym and Learning Styles. People warmed to them, adopted them and then became passionate proponents of them, despite no evidence that they worked. What about today? What are the messages or products we keep getting exposed to? Mindfulness is one that springs to mind.
The more often you see an edu-celebrity on Twitter, the more likely you are to like them. This is dangerous stuff if they keep peddling the same message or endorse a particular resource, brand or idea.