Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Leaf Van Boven

Second Advisor

Charles M. Judd

Third Advisor

Philip M. Fernbach

Fourth Advisor

A. Peter McGraw

Fifth Advisor

Matthew R. Hallowell


I propose and support a salience account of exposure effects suggesting that repeated exposure to stimuli influences evaluations and emotion by increasing salience, the relative quality of standing out in relation to other stimuli in the environment. From this idea that exposure increases salience, I derive the hypotheses that repeated exposure to stimuli will make evaluations more extreme and emotional reactions more intense (in addition to increasing liking as in previous mere exposure research; Montoya et al., 2017; Zajonc, 1968). In Experiments 1 and 2, I manipulate exposure, presenting some stimuli 9 times and other stimuli 3 times, 1 time, or 0 times, as in previous research. Repeated exposure consistently made evaluations more extreme while intensifying emotional reactions to stimuli (Experiments 1-3). Consistent with previous research, exposure also increased how much people liked stimuli (Experiments 2-3). Because salience is a relative quality of standing out in relation to other objects in the environment, I also hypothesized and demonstrated that relative exposure is more impactful than absolute exposure (Experiment 3). Across experiments, results are consistent with the idea that salience mediates these effects of repeated exposure on evaluative extremity, emotional intensity, and liking. Contrary to previous theories of mere exposure effects, fluency (Winkielman et al., 2003) and lower apprehension (Harrison, 1977; Zajonc, 1968) did not account for the effect of exposure on liking (nor the effects on extremity or intensity). In Experiment 4, I directly manipulated salience by making one stimulus in a scene stand out (by presenting one diagonal stimulus surrounded by several vertically-oriented stimuli or one vertical stimulus surrounded by several diagonal stimuli). Salience made evaluations more extreme and increased emotional intensity. These findings have theoretical implications for mere exposure and practical implications for advertising and everyday life.