Jill Hewlett - Brain Fitness Authority Toronto - Brain Health and Exercises


This time last year, my daughter had received the exciting news. She would be starring as Princess Fiona in the annual school play; SHREK.

Initially she was disappointed because funnily enough, she had wanted to be ‘Donkey.’ She had been studying his character and enjoyed his outlandish sense of humour.

Once she became familiar with the Princess Fiona role she grew fond of the character and realized it was a perfect fit for her. So she delved fully into the experience and had an incredible time.

Of course, this meant practicing her lines, songs, and stage presence at home. So, I would get involved and play her counterparts, whose characters I initially didn’t know much about. But by getting involved, I grew fond of them as well.

Although there is a popular saying that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ – it turns out that this isn’t always the case.  In fact, as we become familiar with someone or something, we are likely to understand, appreciate and like them/it more.

What about in your own life?  Have you ever had a strong opinion about someone or something, but once you spoke to them directly or learned more about the situation, your stance changed? Perhaps you began to soften, drop your resistance, or adopt a new perspective?

The Power of Repeated Exposure

Marketers know that product exposure is key to sales success. Psychologist Robert Zajonc was the first to scientifically prove this phenomenon in a lab and termed it the familiarity principle. People who are repeatedly exposed to certain stimuli, come to develop a preference for it.

In a study at the University of Toronto, college students were exposed to previously unfamiliar fruit juices and asked to judge them. Researchers found that the students rated the juices in proportion to how frequently they were tasted. It was mere exposure that had these students developing preferences.

In another example, University of Pittsburgh psychologists had four women pretend to be students in a university class. Each woman showed up to class a different number of times. When male students were shown pictures of the four women, the men demonstrated a greater affinity for the women they’d seen more often in class — even though they hadn’t interacted with any of them!

Before you knew it, familiarly got the better of us too. After many hours of rehearsing, not only did my daughter enjoy being Princess Fiona, she had become Princess Fiona. And I had developed a fondness for Shrek.

Along with the impact that familiarity has on our psyche, there are other scientifically proven ways to intentionally build rapport with others, to put the odds in your favour that they will think and feel more fondly toward you.

Here are some examples:

1) TRAIT TRANSFERENCE – did you know that people associate the adjectives you use to describe other people with your own personality? So make sure, in a genuine way, you speak highly and positively about others.

2) EMOTIONAL CONTAGION – it turns out that people are influenced by the moods of other people because of our ‘mirror neuron’ which are cells that mimic other people’s emotions, movements and facial expressions. Do your best to authentically exude upbeat and positive emotions.

3) PRATFALL EFFECT – research shows that people like people who are willing to show vulnerability. It may sound odd, but if you make a mistake in front of others, such as tripping or spilling your coffee, they will like you more. But this is only IF they already believe you are a competent person.

4) SIMILARITY-ATTRACTION EFFECT – we’ve heard the saying that opposites attract, but studies show that people are more attracted to those who are similar to them. Take time to ask questions of others, so you can find common ground and interests to discuss.

5) SELF DISCLOSURE:  people appreciate those who can confide in them; it builds a sense of connection and trust. What can you share about yourself that goes beyond the typical surface level conversation items that most people engage in day to day?

6) RECIPROCITY OF LIKING: perhaps it’s obvious but people have a natural tendency to like people who like them.  As my daughter would say, ‘Duh?!”  So if you like someone, show them.  And when you are just getting to know someone, focus on the things that you are starting to notice that you like about them; because what you focus on expands. They will feel it and reflect it back to you.

We Really Are Like Onions

Most of all, and relating back to the SHREK play; which was full of humour, insight and wisdom – let’s remember that all people, just like Ogre’s have layers.

When donkey made incorrect assumptions about Shrek’s character, based solely on his outer appearance, (which people typically do), Shrek went on to tell him that there is so much more to him – he’s like an onion, with many layers.

Thankfully the adventure they embarked on, gave them ample time to discover more about themselves and each other.

So how can you take the time and interest to incorporate some of these concepts, so you not only improve and further connections with others, but you also bring greater acceptance, familiarly and positivity to yourself?