The Mere Exposure Effect in Psychology and the Future of AI in Product Management


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 14, 2023

4 min read


The Mere Exposure Effect in Psychology and the Future of AI in Product Management


In the field of psychology, researchers have discovered an interesting phenomenon known as the mere exposure effect. This effect suggests that individuals tend to prefer things that they have been exposed to before, even if they do not consciously remember the exposure. The more often someone has been exposed to something, the more they are likely to develop a liking for it. This finding has important implications for understanding human desire and the social processes that influence our preferences.

The mere exposure effect was first described by social psychologist Robert Zajonc in 1968. According to Zajonc, people do not need to experience a reward or positive outcome while being exposed to an object for the effect to occur. Simply being exposed to the object is enough to increase the likelihood of developing a preference for it. This finding challenges the idea that our preferences are solely based on conscious decision-making and highlights the power of our subconscious mind.

Interestingly, the mere exposure effect is not limited to human participants. Studies with non-human animals have also shown that they exhibit a similar preference for familiar objects. This suggests that the effect might be rooted in a more fundamental cognitive process that transcends species boundaries.

However, the mere exposure effect does not occur for things that we initially dislike. If we have a negative initial impression of something, repeated exposure is unlikely to change our opinion. This finding suggests that the mere exposure effect is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon and that our initial preferences still play a significant role in shaping our final judgments.

In addition to its impact on our preferences, the mere exposure effect also has implications for our emotions and moods. Research has shown that subliminal exposure to certain images can affect participants' preferences and moods. However, interestingly, the effect does not occur when participants are repeatedly exposed to sounds. This suggests that visual stimuli may have a stronger influence on our preferences and emotions than auditory stimuli.

Furthermore, the mere exposure effect is not a static phenomenon. As people are repeatedly exposed to an object, their liking for it can change over time. While a smaller number of repeated exposures can increase our liking for something, continued exposure can eventually lead to fatigue and a decrease in preference. This finding resonates with personal experiences, such as getting tired of TV commercials that are shown repeatedly.

Connecting the Mere Exposure Effect to AI in Product Management:

The mere exposure effect sheds light on the power of familiarity in shaping our preferences. This concept becomes particularly relevant in the context of AI in product management. Marily Nika, an expert in AI at Meta (formerly Google), emphasizes that AI will become the default in all future products. She argues that AI is not meant to replace humans but rather enhance our work and provide us with new ideas.

Nika's insights align with the mere exposure effect in psychology. As AI becomes more prevalent and integrated into products, users will become familiar with its presence. This familiarity can lead to increased trust and acceptance of AI-enhanced features. Nika suggests that AI should be seen as a tool that assists product managers in solving problems, rather than a replacement for their role.

The future of AI in product management is all about changing mindsets. Product managers should focus on identifying problems that can be solved in a smart and efficient way using AI. It is crucial to understand that AI should not be implemented for the sake of it but rather to address pain points and improve user experiences.

To effectively incorporate AI into product management, there are three actionable pieces of advice to consider:

  • 1. Identify the problem: Before diving into AI implementation, thoroughly assess the problem you are trying to solve. Ensure that there is a genuine need for AI and that it aligns with the pain points of your users. AI should be a means to an end, not the end itself.
  • 2. Learn the basics: While AI tools and platforms are becoming more user-friendly, having a foundational understanding of coding and training models can be immensely beneficial. Taking online courses or partnering with someone who has a technical background can provide you with the necessary skills to leverage AI effectively.
  • 3. Embrace a growth mindset: Don't be intimidated by AI. Embrace the opportunity to learn and experiment. Start small, take risks, and be open to failure. AI is a rapidly evolving field, and being willing to adapt and learn will give you a competitive edge in product management.


The mere exposure effect in psychology highlights the power of familiarity in shaping our preferences. As AI becomes increasingly integrated into products, understanding this effect becomes essential for product managers. By identifying genuine problems, learning the basics of AI, and embracing a growth mindset, product managers can effectively leverage AI to enhance user experiences and solve complex problems.

In the future, AI will be the default in all products, and product managers will play a crucial role in harnessing its potential. By understanding the mere exposure effect and incorporating AI thoughtfully, product managers can navigate the evolving landscape of technology and create impactful and user-centered products.

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