Familiarity and Liking: Direct Tests of the Preference-Feedback Hypothesis

Previous investigations have provided evidence for positive (“mere exposure”), negative, and inverted-U functional relationships between familiarity and liking for various categories of stimuli. The preference-feedback hypothesis offers an explanation for these seemingly contradictory findings; two experiments designed to test the hypothesis directly are reported in this paper. In both experiments, as predicted by the hypothesis, mere exposure effects were found for Class A stimuli, whose cultural prevalence is determined partly by their popularity; but the hypothesized nonmonotonic familiarity-liking relationship did not emerge for Class B stimuli, whose cultural prevalence is unresponsive to their popularity. Four possible explanations of these findings are discussed.