Troy, N.Y. Fads have been a staple of American pop culture for decades, from spandex in the 1980s to skinny jeans today. But while going from fad to flop may seem like the result of fickle consumers, a new study suggests that this is exactly what should be expected for a highly efficient, rationally evolved animal.
The new research, led by cognitive scientist Mark Changizi of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, shows why direct exposure to repeated ads initially increases a consumer's preference for promoted products, and why the most effective advertisements are the ones consumers don't even realize they have seen.
It has long been known that repeated visual exposure to an object can affect an observer's preference for it, initially rapidly increasing preference, and then eventually lowering preference again. This can give way to short-lived fads. But while this may seem illogical, Changizi argues that it makes perfect cognitive sense.
"A rational animal ought to prefer something in proportion to the probable payoff of acting to obtain it," said Changizi, assistant professor of cognitive science at Rensselaer and lead author of the study, which appears in the online version of the journal Perception. "The frequency at which one is visually exposed to an object can provide evidence about this expected payoff, and our brains have evolved mechanisms that exploit this information, rationally modulating our preferences."
A small number of visual exposures to an object typically raises the probability of acquiring the object, which enhances preference, according to Changizi.
On the other hand, Changizi says overexposure to an object provides the brain with evidence that the object is overabundant, and is likely not valuable, thereby lowering the individual's preference for it.
"An individual's preference for an object based on a large number of visual exposures will almost always take the shape of an inv
|Contact: Amber Cleveland|
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute