Jay S. Prince

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Feldman, Solomon E.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Conditioned response; Perception


In recent years, Zajonc and his colleagues have presented correlational and experimental evidence for the "mere exposure" effect, i.e., the enhancement of subjects' attitudes towards repeatedly exposed stimuli. Zajonc has maintained that stimulus recognition is a necessary condition for mediational processing, and since exposure affects have been demonstrated in the absence of stimulus recognition, mediational processes are not necessary for the exposure effect. The present study was an attempt to demonstrate the occurrence of mediational processes despite the absence of stimulus recognition; a finding which would question Zajonc's non-mediational explanation of the "mere exposure" phenomenon. Twenty-four subjects (11 males and 13 females) viewed irregular octagons (neutral stimuli) paired with either a positively or negatively evaluated word, exposed subliminally at varying frequencies (1, 8, and 15 exposures). Subjects later rated the previously exposed polygons on a 7-point like-dislike scale. It was hypothesized that, with repeated exposures, the novel stimuli would acquire the affective connotations of the postively or negatively charged word with which they were paired and that subjects' ratings would reflect this processing. In a second condition, the experimental procedures reported by Wilson and Zajonc (1980) were replicated. Twenty subjects (11 males and 9 females) viewed irregular octagons at subliminal exposure durations, and were then presented with pairs of "old" and "new" stimuli for affect and recognition judgements. As in the original study, it was expected that subjects would prefer "old" to "new" stimuli while maintaining chance level stimulus recognition rates. The results failed to replicate Wilson and Zajonc's (1980) findings as there was no evidence for any exposure effects. Furthermore, there was no significant interaction between word valence and exposure frequency in the "stimulus pairing" condition, i.e., subjects' affect ratings of the neutral stimuli did not appear to be influenced by the positive or negative words with which they were paired. It was concluded that evidence could not be presented for either exposure effects or mediational processing in the absence of stimulus recognition. Methodological considerations were discussed as well as possible directions for future research.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


vii, 58 pages




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