What is the biggest secret of mass-reality-creation? It’s the familiarity principle, also called The mere exposure effect.
The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. In social psychology, this effect is sometimes called the familiarity principle. The effect has been demonstrated with many kinds of things, including words, Chinese characters, paintings, pictures of faces, geometric figures, and sounds. In studies of interpersonal attraction, the more often someone sees a person, the more pleasing and likeable they find that person.
Another way to say this: The song you keep hearing on the radio is not played because it’s popular. It’s popular because it keeps getting played.
Consider the last sentence for a moment. It provides a clue to how many other things work. And to how the world is run.
Popular Culture is neither Popular, nor is it Culture
Have you heard of payola?
Again, quoting Wikipedia:
Payola, in the music industry, is the illegal practice of paying a commercial radio station to play a song without the station disclosing the payment. Under US law, a radio station must disclose songs they were paid to play on the air as sponsored airtime. The number of times the songs are played can influence the perceived popularity of a song, and payola may be used to influence these metrics.
Even though it’s illegal, record companies find creative ways to pay radio stations for mass-exposure of their songs. Thus, “indie” music bands, who did not sign on with big record companies that can afford to pay for airtime, must look for other ways of attracting an audience.
Regardless of whether you consciously like a song, repeated exposure gets your subconscious to “like” it in the sense that it’s familiar and therefore feels “safe” and “cozy”. Even songs you can’t stand – if repeated enough – will have your subconscious create familiarity-feelings that will affect you to some degree. To some extent, influencers can override the conscious mind to reach your subconscious.
Modern “social media” works on the same principles as payola: Organic reach is prevented. Only people who pay for millions of followers, will have millions of followers. If silicon valley companies actually allowed organic reach, our “popular culture” would look very different. Many of our “superstars” would be unknowns and many unknowns would be widely acclaimed. In fact:
Popular culture is neither.
That means, it’s neither popular, nor is is it culture. The popularity of the top 10 songs, top 10 movies and top 10 websites at any given time and whatever is supposedly “trending” is manufactured or fabricated, not organic.
What is truly organic? My work is, for example. In the last 20 years I’ve purchased close to zero ads and not paid for marketing. I’ve let the reach of my work grow organically, without any “selling” and “persuasion”. That means my success has come more slowly, but it’s also more stable, more independent and reaches people who dislike repetition-brainwashing as much as I do – conscious people. I’m glad I don’t keep having to write books on the same topic and I don’t have to mail out a shallow newsletter every other day.
Abusive People manipulate our attachment Needs
Have you ever heard of a case in which a spouse doesn’t leave their abusive partner? Most of us have! Their thinking goes something like this: I know this person. I am familiar and comfortable with this person. I am attached to this person. Leaving them and going into the unknown is much more scary than taking “a little” abuse. And maybe I am a bad person and deserve this abuse.
It might seem strange to you, but I’ve met people who would choose bad-but-familiar over free-but-unfamiliar (see also: Stockholm Syndrome). At a low level of consciousness, freedom appears daunting, as if something worse happens if they dare leave their familiar setting. Some abusive people are skilled at manipulating peoples attachment-needs. Every human being desires the familiar, a sense of belonging, a sense of continuity. An abusive person seeks out weak people in which the need for belonging is strong. Then the abuser can get away with a lot before the person fights back or leaves.
Peoples need for familiarity, causes them to stay in relationships they don’t really wish to be in, including non-abusive relationships that have gone stale.
Free Yourself from Familiarity-Hypnosis
Am I staying in my relationship for comfort and familiarity or out of real love and joy?
Do I genuinely like my work, or am I only doing it because I’ve succeeded with it in the past and know it so well?
Do I really love my circle of friends and relatives or am I only hanging out with them out of familiarity?
Do I really love the TV-series I am watching or am I only watching because it feels cozy and familiar?
An example: I have binge-watched 16 seasons of the cartoon “Family Guy” a couple of years ago. But I don’t genuinely like the show. How do I know that? I have never watched it alone. When I’m alone I don’t watch anything. I’ve only watched the show with my wife, because she loves it and it provides a cozy and familiar context after our long day of work. I actually tried watching it alone once, and it elicited no laugh. But when I’m watching it with my wife, it gets a chuckle out of me because the person sitting beside me thinks it’s hilarious, and emotions are contagious.
I’ve also never had alcohol alone. That means that alcohol is not my genuine desire. When I’m alone, one of the genuine desires I have is to learn something new, to read or to write. “Would I also do it if I were alone?” – is a question that helps you determine whether you are being fully authentic.
I remember how my wife got me to watch season after season of “Family Guy” with her: “Just watch a few episodes and then decide if you like it”. See? She was using the familiarity principle. They also call it “acquired taste”. I couldn’t stand it the first few episodes but then “it kind of grew on me” and so then, I watched it out of habit. I think we watched an entire 16 seasons (back then) within just a year. I share this so that you see that every one of us uses brainwashing-techniques, even if innocently (also: I’m not saying that Familiarity as such is a bad thing. I am saying that it can be abused).
Creating a drug-addiction works the same way. If a drug dealer can get you try try the drug several times, they can build a familiarity. Even if you do not like the taste or feeling at first, a few more hits and the body starts getting used to it. Soon you believe you need it.
So yes, it is true that, to some extent you can “get into” and “learn to like” almost anything. But that’s different from genuine attraction, joy and love. Things you really like do not require continual repetition and exposure for you to like or believe them.
Many have never heard of the familiarity principle or mere-exposure-effect. I believe that’s by design. If people knew how it worked, they would realize the enormous power of mass-media and Marketing PR to create mass-reality. There are many things people believe, that don’t even exist, except in their minds. If I’d list them all here, it would upset a lot of people. And there are other things that do exist, that are not believed, for the same reasons.
Why are some people immune to repetition-brainwashing? Because they’ve worked on themselves spiritually. Deep inside, they’ve called for truth. They develop healthy attachments and are willing to release attachment when needed. They are willing to let go of familiarity when needed, stepping into the unknown. Breaking your routine of action, activity, thinking and feeling every now and then, is a good way to prevent being manipulated. People keep asking me “What’s your main teacher?” But I don’t have a main teacher. And they ask “What’s your primary method of reality creation?” but I don’t have a primary method. It’s better to stay flexible, without attaching too much to one path, method or source of information. The last three books I wrote are a good example of breaking routine. They venture into unfamiliar territory. I hope that your life too, sometimes ventures into unfamiliar territory. That’s how you prevent the familiarity-effect of hypnotizing you into complacency. Stay awake.