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How to Apply the Mere Exposure Effect to your eLearning Design

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The mere exposure effect (also known as the familiarity effect) suggests that the more we see or hear something, the more we like it (Luttrell, 2016). 

An example of this in action was demonstrated through a study conducted by social psychologist, Robert Zajonc (1968). This is what happened:

  1. Participants were shown images that did not already elicit extreme reactions, such as foreign words and faces of strangers. 
  2. The participants were asked to rate how pleasant the images were. 
  3. Some participants had seen the images before, some had seen them one time, some had seen them a few times and some had seen them 25 times. 
  4. The more the participant had already been exposed to the image, the more they said they liked it. 
Over the years, psychologists have found that this effect happens for a range of stimuli, including things like artwork, colours, flavours and geometric figures (Luttrell, 2016).

Maybe that is why some of today’s biggest celebrities have such loving and devoted fans. The more we see them, the more we love them (even if it is on a subconscious level).

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So, familiarity results in people liking things more without any substantive reason. Surprising but cool right? Before you get caught up in thinking about whether this effect has resulted in you liking a particular band, a type of food or dare us say it… your partner (keep that one to yourself lol), let us explore how you can use this effect in how you design learning.

If your learners are presented with a learning experience and like it, you can imagine that they are more likely to be engaged, show interest, learn something and in turn meet the learning objectives.

With that in mind, here is how you can use the mere exposure effect for your eLearning solutions.

1. Create a Familiar eLearning User Interface

When you are designing your eLearning user interface or template, think about how you can align it to platforms, applications and websites that already exist.

Have you ever used an application and figured out the navigation easily because it reminded you of an application that you already use? This is an example of the mere exposure effect in action.

It can be unpleasant and frustrating when learners are faced with an online learning experience that is not familiar. It is likely that they will not know how to navigate the experience and this leads to unnecessary effort and frustration.

Practical Tips:

  • Look at how websites, applications and other eLearning experiences are designed in the world. 
  • Search for ‘modern app layouts’ or ‘modern websites’ on Google and find consistent elements and themes. 
  • Create a design that is somewhat globally recognisable.

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2. Reference Well-Known People

When you are designing a learning experience, consider how you can include guidance and quotes from well-known people. For example, a quote by Albert Einstein or a well-known member of an organisation can capture more attention and liking than a random person on the internet.

At Belvista Studios, when the context is right, we incorporate quotes and images from people within our client’s organisation. When learners are familiar with the people referenced, they are more likely to take the information seriously and connect with what is being shared.

Practical Tips:

  • Use quotes by well-known people (e.g. Albert Einstein). 
  • Use tips, quotes and images from people within your client’s organisation. 
3. Relate Learning to what Learners Already Know

Prior to designing a learning experience, consider what your learners already know. When training new content, use their current knowledge to support their understanding or gain buy-in.

For example if you are creating a learning experience that trains learners on a new process, you may want to refer to processes that they already use to support their understanding. 

Practical Tips:

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That is it for this blog. We hope that you have gained value from it and can incorporate the practical tips into your eLearning projects. If you would like to discuss utilising the mere exposure effect for eLearning in further detail please do not hesitate to contact our passionate founder Kim via or by connecting with her on LinkedIn.


Luttrell, A. (2016). The Mere Exposure Effect. Retrieved from

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal Effects of Mere Exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2, Pt.2), 1–27.

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