The holiday season is almost over, and desperate retailers are bombarding us with advertisements that most of us can’t afford to take advantage of. One of their most popular inducements is to try to get us interested in the latest fad.

Fadshave been a staple of American pop culture for decades, from spandex in the 1980s to skinny jeans today. But while going from fad to flop may seem like the result of fickle consumers, a new study suggests that this is exactly what should be expected of a highly efficient, rationally evolved animal?like us!

New research by Mark Changizi shows why repeated exposure to ads increases a consumer?s preference for the products being promoted, and why the most effective advertisements are the ones consumers don’t even realize they have seen.

It has long been known that repeated visual exposure to an object can affect an observer?s preference for it. This can create short-lived fads (and every woman has evidence of this in her clothes closet!)

But while this may seem illogical, Changizi argues that it makes perfect cognitive sense. He says, “A rational animal ought to prefer something in proportion to the probable payoff of acting to obtain it. The frequency at which one is visually exposed to an object can provide evidence about this expected payoff, and our brains have evolved to exploit this information.” But one of the most surprising aspects of visual exposure effects, according to Changizi, is that they are enhanced when visual exposure occurs without conscious recognition. Advertising that takes the form of apparel branded with company’s names, and products strategically placed in movies and television shows, often go unnoticed by consumers, capitalizing on our brain?s mechanisms to modulate preference based on non-conscious exposure. This is known as product placement.

One thing we CAN’T allow advertisers to do is steal our precious precious emotional life!

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