Residential mobility breeds familiarity-seeking

Shigehiro Oishi, Felicity F. Miao, Minkyung Koo, Jason Kisling, Kate A. Ratliff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Why are American landscapes (e.g., housing developments, shopping malls) so uniform, despite the well-known American penchant for independence and uniqueness? We propose that this paradox can be explained by American mobility: Residential mobility fosters familiarity-seeking and familiarity-liking, while allowing individuals to pursue their personal goals and desires. We reason that people are drawn to familiar objects (e.g., familiar, national chain stores) when they move. We conducted 5 studies to test this idea at the levels of society, individuals, and situations. We found that (a) national chain stores do better in residentially mobile places than in residentially stable places (controlling for other economic and demographic factors; Study 1); (b) individuals who have moved a lot prefer familiar, national chain stores to unfamiliar stores (Studies 2a and 2b); and (c) a residential mobility mindset enhances the mere exposure and familiarity-liking effect (Studies 4 and 5). In Study 5, we demonstrated that the link between mobility and familiarity-liking was mediated by anxiety evoked by mobility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-162
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Culture
  • Familiarity
  • Mere exposure effect
  • Residential mobility
  • Social ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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