preference-feedback hypothesis

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A conjecture put forward by the South African-born British psychologist Andrew M(ichael) Colman (born 1944), the English psychologist David J(ohn) Hargreaves (born 1948), and the Polish-born British psychologist Wladyslaw Sluckin (1919–85) in articles in the British Journal of Psychology and the British Journal of Social Psychology in 1981 to explain the fact that for certain classes of stimuli (such as surnames) the relationship between rated familiarity and attractiveness is an inverted U, with both very unfamiliar and very familiar surnames receiving lower ratings of attractiveness than stimuli of intermediate familiarity, whereas for other classes of stimuli (such as first names) the relationship is monotonic, with attractiveness increasing indefinitely with familiarity. According to the hypothesis, the underlying relationship is an inverted U, but the decrease in attractiveness for high levels of familiarity does not occur in stimuli such as first names whose frequency of exposure and therefore familiarity is significantly controlled by human choice, because as soon as such stimuli begin to decrease in attractiveness through over-exposure, they tend to be chosen less often and their frequency of exposure in the culture is thus damped by a feedback mechanism, the net effect being a monotonic empirical relationship. The mere exposure effect is explained partly by this mechanism and partly by the fact that, for complex stimuli, extremely high levels of exposure are required before the peak of the inverted U is passed.

Subjects: Psychology.

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