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Chloe Taylor, Alexandra Clifford, Anna Franklin; Mere exposure influences male colour preference, yet female colour preference is resistant to change. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):387. doi: 10.1167/11.11.387.
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Colour preference has been related to affective responses to colour-associated objects (Palmer & Schloss, 2010). In other domains, preference for a given stimulus merely increases as a result of repeated, brief and neutral exposure to that stimulus, and these ‘mere exposure’ effects also generalise to stimuli which share similar characteristics to the exposed stimulus (e.g., Monahan, Murphy, & Zajonc, 2000). Here, we investigate whether mere exposure also affects colour preference. To establish the baseline preference, one group of participants rated their preference (0–10 scale) for a set of 24 colours that were dark, light and saturated versions of eight hues (stimuli from Palmer & Schloss, 2010). A separate group of participants were then exposed to the three least liked colours (dark orange, yellow and chartreuse) 10 times for 500 ms each (Bornstein & D'Agostino, 1992), whilst performing a distractor task (indicate the direction of a centrally presented arrow using arrow keys), and then rated the full set of 24 colours. There were ‘mere exposure’ effects for male but not female colour preference. Following exposure, male preference was on average significantly greater than baseline for exposed colours, and on average significantly less than baseline for non-exposed colours. Mere exposure effects also generalised to individual colours of a similar lightness to the exposed colours (greater preference for the dark colours relative to baseline), but not to colours of the same hue (saturated/light orange, yellow, chartreuse). These findings demonstrate for the first time that even brief, neutral exposure influences colour preference, possibly due to increased familiarity or processing fluency (e.g., Reber, Schwarz, & Winkielman, 2004). The sex difference, and the generalisation of the effect to stimuli of a similar lightness but not hue, potentially provides insight into the psychological mechanisms and dimensions of male and female colour preference.
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