The 30 in 30 Briefing Series focuses on a new cognitive bias, fallacy or heuristic in every single publication. By this Briefing we want to provide you with a rough overview on the cognitive theories most likely to occur in the legal profession. Today’s content: The Mere Exposure Effect.
The Mere Exposure Effect is a theory which states that the more a person is exposed to a certain stimulus, the more positive his attitude towards it. In other words, the more an individual simply perceives something, the more he or she will develop a preference for that thing simply because of familiarity. The earliest known research into this effect was conducted by Gustav Fechner in 1876, though it was essentially developed through the research conducted by Robert Zajonc.
This effect has been used extensively by advertisers who not only repeatedly expose their brand and logo as to ingrain it into the minds of the populous but they are careful to associate it with something that consumers are already familiar with, so that the familiar stimuli elicits positive feelings which then hopefully get associated with the brand or logo itself.
The effect also holds true for interpersonal relationships. A person would be more willing to talk to and more open to trusting a person that they do not know simply because he or she has seen that other person on more than a few occasions. Towards a complete stranger, on the other hand, they would be more apprehensive in approaching.
The effect has a few legal connotations as well.
A judge who has looked at a similar issue a number of times is likely to use similar assumptions as made in previous cases and decide the case along the same lines. Lawyers may use this to their advantage through looking at a judge’s previous decisions and evaluating the view that the judge is likely to take. They then may determine which line of argumentation would be more appropriate for winning a case in front of that particular judge. In jurisdictions where one is permitted to choose a judge or an arbitrator, this has particular significance as one will aim to choose one whose propensity towards a certain line of reasoning is likely to result in a favourable outcome for one’s client.
Young professionals in the legal field may also benefit from this. At the beginning of their career, they should be open to new stimuli but should also know the direction they would like to take as the more they are exposed to working in a particular area, chances are the more they will like it. It therefore makes sense to start off in the direction one already has an affinity for.
Young lawyers are also told to go and spend time at the court as often as possible. This is so that they gain more exposure, understand the system and learn through observation. However, this approach may also benefit them in other ways. Repeated exposure in court and other such places is not only a learning tool but for lack of better wording, puts ones face out there. Judges, lawyers, clerks and others may not actively notice their presence but would have subconsciously registered it which may, thanks to this theory, form a positive association in their mind. So, when this young lawyer appears before the court for his or her first case, he or she may be viewed more positively and possibly is more likely to be heard.
GRABIGER / KOURA