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  • Writer's pictureJulia Das Dores

The Psychology of Familiarity




Recently on The Jukebox, my co-host Cynthia and I discussed the psychology of familiarity. This truth-talk episode was inspired by the podcast The Psychology of Your 20s by Jemma Sbeg, and we had quite a lot to unpack. First, we had a few ways of defining what ‘familiarity’ means to us. Then, we condensed our definitions into a short list:

  1. Familiarity is weirdly resembling our significant others.

  2. Familiarity is similar to deja-vu where we have a liking for someone because we have literally seen them in our dreams.

  3. Familiarity is wanting our best qualities to be passed down to the next generation, which first starts with definition #1.

  4. Familiarity is the people we know who have the same eye colors, hair colors, sense of humor, personality, etc.

Thus, there are clearly many ways to interpret what familiarity can mean, but I, of course, have a single interpretation. However, I wanted to research online what ‘experts’ were saying about the phenomenon of familiarity, and they all said it simply comes down to frequency.


Frequency, in this case, translates to how often you engage with someone, and the more often you do this, the more familiar you will become with them and develop a liking. In a nutshell, experts say to acquire familiarity, you need to keep interacting with a certain someone. This definition is not what I had in mind about familiarity because I view it as something that explains why our current friends/ significant others resemble our past friends, family, neighbors, favorite artists, teachers, etc.


Definition #4 really aligns with this, so now you have the opportunity to reflect: Do you have any current friends/ acquaintances or significant others that remind you of someone you knew back in the day? Maybe these people have a sense of humor you enjoy because that is what you gravitated towards during your youth. Perhaps they possess a certain eye color, haircut, or fashion style that you always saw in your household, school, work, etc.? Have you ever met someone who looked like they could be your sibling or looked like that one kid from high school?


My connection to this is that some of my current friends and people I know at work or school quite literally remind me of people I knew way back! I find it interesting--and a little freaky-- that these memories of people come back as a whole new person that we immediately connect with. Yet, are these connections made intentionally or coincidentally; what else is at play? Take a moment to ponder on this blog, and I guarantee that you will uncover the psychology of familiarity!



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