Putting Yourself Out There: Mere Exposure Effect and the Psychology of Auditions

mere exposure effect

I’ve received so many emails from young actors asking if they should go to an audition. “I’m feeling a little bit sick,” they tell me. “I don’t know if this is the right song for me. I don’t know if I’m experienced enough to work at this theatre. I haven’t had a voice lesson in a few weeks. I’ve been using a pre-recorded track for this piece, and they have a live accompanist at the auditions. I just don’t think that I’m going to do well enough.”

Go anyway.

We don’t say that because we read one too many inspirational quote posters (“We learn from failure, not from success!” “Failure is when you stop trying!”). You should show up for the audition because SCIENCE says that you should. Think about Top 40 pop songs on the radio. I’m sure that you’ve heard at least one song where the first time through, you were like: “UGH. This song is the WORST.” Then, after a few weeks of re-play on the radio, you find yourself humming along and drumming on your steering wheel like: “This is my jam.” Wait, what?! You couldn’t stand that song last month! How did that happen?

According to the mere exposure effect, the more you see or hear something, the more you like it. For instance, in a 1992 study, researchers recruited a group of women to attend a college class throughout the semester. One of them didn’t attend at all; another attended almost every single lecture. The women didn’t interact with anyone. They just sat quietly during the lecture and then left. At the end of the semester, the students were shown photographs of each woman and ranked them on scales like physical attractiveness. Even though they’d never interacted with any of the women, the students ranked the woman who’d attended almost every lecture as fifteen times more attractive than the woman who’d never shown up.

So what does that have to do with auditions? When you show up to an audition, the director sees you. The music director sees you. The casting associates see you. Sometimes, even the producer sees you. Not only do they see your live audition, they also see your name repeated on the audition schedule, on your resume, on the thank you note that you send afterwards (because you should always send a thank you note after an audition or interview). The more times you can get your name and face in front of them (without being annoying), the better. Because just like the students in the college class, the more they see or hear you, the more they’ll like you. And that alone could make you up to fifteen times more likely to get cast than the actor coming in behind you who’s never shown up before.

So go to that audition! Submit that application! Send in your headshot and resume! Remember that, according to science, you basically have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Posted on Jan 13, 2018 in Auditions  

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