The Rippling Effects of Familiarity

One of the greatest risks that we tend to overlook is familiarity risk. This post covers this risk and its rippling effects.

Let us take this scenario. You have a room by yourself in a company. A new employee arrives and shares the office with you. Your immediate reaction shall be to reject this employee. Over time you develop feelings of proximity that develop into familiarity and you accept him.

The Proximity leads to the familiarity effect and this, in turn, leads to the mere exposure effect.

The Oxford dictionary defines curiosity as a strong desire to know or learn something. Familiarity tends to reduce our curiosity to explore new ideas and fields. We become like an owner of a car who drives the same road from home to work and back. Soon, this man will stop paying attention to his surrounding.

It is the familiarity effect that shows up later as the mere exposure effect. The employee who rejected the new employee because of intruding into his office and sharing it may later accept the employee because of the familiarity effect.

Familiarity has other positive effects. When you become familiar with somebody you feel you are taking less risk dealing with him. You are now back in your comfort zone.

On the adverse side, familiarity is a curiosity-killer and is also a big reason why people reject change. Change means displacing people out of their comfort zone. This brings new risks- both expected and unexpected. People have to leave what they are familiar with to an unfamiliar situation.

Familiarity has an embedded potential risk and that is rejecting change for no logical reasons.

One definition of creativity is turning the familiar into the unfamiliar and vice versa.

This is another embedded risk of familiarity and that is eating out creativity.

Familiarity subdues affinity for taking risks. This has good effects such as accepting others, but also with the risk of losing the appetite for taking risks.

This is another embedded risk of familiarity and that is eating out risk-taking.

You can see evidence of these effects in teams. As soon as a new team member joins team members reject him for no reason except that this member is disturbing their familiarity with each other.

If this team member might have some new ideas to widen the scope of the team his alienation from the team increase. Not only has he disturbed the team, but now is disturbing what the team is familiar with.

This is another embedded risk of familiarity and that is eating out acceptance of variety.

Affinity social groups do not easily welcome fresh air- I mean new members for the same reasons. With the increasing global risks humans are facing will our appetite for risk-taking become lesser? Is the tendency for more closed affinity circles to reduce risks will be the outcome?

Your thoughts count.

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Ali Anani
Ali Ananihttps://www.bebee.com/@ali-anani
My name is Ali Anani. I hold a Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia (UK, 1972) Since the early nineties I switched my interests to publish posts and presentations and e-books on different social media platforms.


  1. As always, the article is of great interest.
    What to say more?
    From experience and referring in particular to risk attitude, I would like to add that the subjective risk / benefit assessment also influences our choices: if a certain behavior brings a benefit, then the risk connected to it will be perceived to a lesser extent. To give an example: to clean the window panes I get on the chair because it is close at hand, it saves me the hassle of taking the ladder, it allows me greater freedom of movement, therefore it saves time; the danger that can derive from this action seems to me less than the advantage I derive from speeding up the work.
    Risk is perceived as positive when it is associated with a relevant motivation and promises immediate benefits; the disadvantages are not obvious, so it is “worth it”.

  2. I recall from down the memory lane . During childhood or since childhood I was choosy for the food with strict likes and dislike . One day my mother presented a new dish ( Measal – a tasty prepared from varieties of pulses and cooked with spices , later become very popular street food ) . As usual I rejected. My mother reaction in Marathi – are khvun ta paha ! ( at-least taste it )
    For a change I accepted to taste and I loved it .

    Aptly stated that unfamiliarity is barrier to the change. But a known change we do accept . Like going on transfer to another city , we know more or ales implications so it i not a barrier . for the example quoted suppose someone known or your fried was to share a room or office, I am sure would be welcome step . ( In fact experienced this in transferable job )
    Thanks. Enjoyed the post

    • You remind me of my story dear Vinod Dahake. Wheneve rmy mother cooked green beans or ladies fingers I refused to eat at home.
      She tried many times till I decided to take a mouthful and express my dislike so that my mom would stop trying to convince me to try.
      Today, green beans is my favorite meal.

      As for sharing the office I meant a stranger and not somebody known before.