Posts Tagged ‘Survival Processing’

Read this a FEW times… I Promise You’ll like it: The Mere Exposure Effect At Work

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Why do you really like your favorite song?

     When Party in the USA comes at a party, there is nothing stopping me. I know every word, every beat, and every guitar strum to that song. The energy in the room is wild, and I can confidently say that everyone is enjoying themselves, maybe not as much as I am, but nonetheless, enjoying themselves. I mean, what else can you expect from a 2009 banger that has been played on repeat since its debiew on Disney Channel? But what happens when the kid on AUX, switches to one of his soundcloud mystery raps that no one knows? I find myself enjoying the time much less, and everyone seemingly starts to mingle instead of dance. Why would Party in the USA have better success at a party over a new soundcloud rap? Cognitive psychology and the mere exposure effect can explain this.

     The mere exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon where people tend to like and prefer things better that they are exposed to more often (Pieter Van Dessel, Gaëtan Mertens, Colin Tucker Smith, & Jan De Houwer). People are more likely to be in favor of certain things that they have repeated exposure to and are more familiar with, even if they are unaware of it. This can explain why Party in the USA is such a hit at parties compared to the soundcloud rap. It is simply because the song has been heard so many times and everyone is so familiar with it. The mere exposure effect is used by artists having their songs played over and over again on the radio for people to like it better, by brands in their constant advertising to make you want to buy a product more, and can even explain why you like the person that sits next to you in two classes every day over somebody else. Reflecting on this phenomenon, it is easy to see why this can be true. In general, we do not like to go to unfamiliar places, spend time with unfamiliar people or put ourselves in unfamiliar situations. The comfort of familiarity drives us to be in the same places, same type of situations and hang out with the same people, and the more often we do it, the more we prefer it. Investigating the mere exposure effect can tell us why familiarity is so important to how we judge something and make us realize how influential it can really be in our lives. So how does it really work?  Read more…

How Survival Instincts Could Help You In Class

November 24th, 2014 1 comment

How good are your survival instincts?

It has been seven scores and sixteen years (or 156 years for people uninterested in the Lincoln reference) since Darwin first outlined “survival of the fittest” in his theory of natural selection and evolution. Even then, the term was taken to apply mostly to animals – and our evolutionary ancestors perhaps, but much less to human beings. Do we care about survival? Definitely; but certainly in a different way than a snake or a hawk might care about survival. Are we selected for? Perhaps, but certainly not in the way peppered moths are selected for in the industrial parts of England. The thing that makes us stand apart from the rest of nature is that other species, for the most part, must adapt to their environments, whereas human beings have made an atrocious name for ourselves for adapting our environments to us.

Thus, nowadays, survival of the fittest, when applied to humans, often takes on a much more socially constructed meaning than the theory it originated from. When an employer chooses a more versatile worker in hopes of getting more work done with fewer employees, we shrug our shoulders at the poor rejectees and say “survival of the fittest”. When someone who is drunk and decides to try and climb a vending machine falls and injures his leg, we laugh and say “survival of the fittest”. The term has come to embody the ideal of being social apt, versatile, and smart enough not to make self-endangering decisions. In any case, for the inhabitants of first world countries who get to sit in class and learn about Darwin, actually having to survive in the wild (as the term was originally about) is no more than a bizarre gag evoked by the flight attendant before a flight across Australia. After all, where is the relevance of “wilderness survival” instincts in a world of supermarkets and movie theaters?

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Does Survival Processing Increase Memory Accuracy?

November 23rd, 2014 2 comments

Have you ever been in a life or death experience? Walked across a bear in the woods? Almost been eaten by a tiger? Gotten in a car crash? Did you find your memory of this event to be clear and accurate, possibly almost like slow motion? Have you made that mistake again, or been more careful in similar settings? Recent studies have shown that the human memory system evolved to afford us a survival advantage (Nairne et al. 2008.) This functional analysis of memory explains that the purpose of memory is to remember the best way to survive. Humans need to accurately remember what situations pose a threat to them so they can successfully avoid those situations in the future.

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Think like a Makeshift MacGyver rather than a Negative Nancy: Exploring the Influences of the Survival-Processing Memory Advantage

May 1st, 2014 1 comment

Imagine that your plane has crashed into the ocean, and you are forced to swim to a deserted island located hundreds of miles away from civilization. All your luggage and the plane’s survival kit have sunk to the bottom of the ocean, and you only have the clothes on your back and the few knickknacks in your pockets. As you sit on the beach exhausted and anxious for a future rescue, you begin to fear that you won’t survive.


Don’t worry! The unfortunate LOST-like situation described above is just an example of the kind of scenario that participants are asked to imagine during the survival-processing paradigm task, which is used to observe some of the complex and adaptive functions of memory. During the task, half of the participants are asked to imagine themselves in a survival type situation like the described plane crash whereas the other half are asked to imagine themselves in a non-survival based situation like moving to a foreign land. While envisioning, all Read more…