The Social Psychology of Veganism – Mere Exposure Effect

When an observer is repeatedly exposed to a message, they are more likely to form a positive attitude about it.  This happens because becoming familiar with a person, thing, or idea breeds fondness.

To illustrate this point, social psychologist David Myers (2013) points to the Eiffel Tower. Once despised by Parisians, it is now a beloved symbol. Overlooking Paris for over a century, folks got quite used to it. Relatively unknown political candidates have successfully used this tactic to increase their popularity through repeating advertisements as well. After watching the same commercial over and over and reading the same yard signs over and over, it starts to seep in.

This effect can be easily harnessed by vegans, too.  Activists who leaflet or table can increase their persuasiveness by maintaining a regular presence in the community.  Online activists can also engage the mere exposure effect with continued presence in forums, chatrooms, and other social media spaces with consistent posts about anti-speciesism. Even wearing a vegan t-shirt regularly can breed familiarity and positive association. Reliably bringing vegan food to company picnics, potlucks, and other events can as well.  Activists who are advertising for a local group meeting or event should post lots of fliers.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Increase audience exposure to message as much as possible
  • Maintain a regular presence and encourage familiarity


Bornstein, R.  1989.  “Exposure and Affect:  Overview and Meta-Analysis of Research, 1968-1987.”  Psychological Bulletin 106:  265-289.

McCullough, J. and T. Ostrom.  1974.  “Repetition of Highly Similar Messages and Attitude Change.”  Journal of Applied Psychology 59:  395-397.

Myers, D.  2013.  Social Psychology, 11th ed.  McGraw Hill.

Winter, F.  1973.  “A Laboratory Experiment of Individual Attitude Response to Advertising Exposure.”  Journal of Marketing Research 10: 130-140.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights. Receive research updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to my newsletter.