Educational Seduction

I want to talk about an article published at Medical Education magazine back in 1973, 4 years before Oracle was founded. Obviously this article has nothing to do with Oracle. It is still fascinating.

A group of academics had an hypothesis that student satisfaction with their teachers depends more on the teacher personality and charisma than on the content of the lecture.

To test this hypothesis, they hired a distinguished and authoritative looking actor, gave him a nice title and an impressive fictitious CV, and arranged for him to present in an academic conference in front of highly trained professional educators.  The researchers instructed the actor to present his topic and conduct his question and answer period with an excessive use of double talk, neologisms, non sequiturs, and contradictory statements. All this was to be interspersed with parenthetical humor and meaningless references to unrelated topics.

After the lecture was over, the researches asked the audience to fill feedback forms for the session. Similar to the kind you see in Oracle Education courses. This entire experiment was repeated three times with different audiences.

The feedback was terrific. The audience was unanimous that the lecture “simulated their thinking” and was “well organized”. Comments included: “Excellent presentation, enjoyed listening.” “What about the two types of games, zero-sum and non-zero sum?” “Too intellectual a presentation. My orientation is more pragmatic” “Extremely articulate.” “Interesting, wish he dwelled more on background.” “Good analysis of subject that has been personally studied before.”

Fascinating. Given a sufficiently charismatic presenter, an audience of highly trained professionals completely failed to detect that they were fed bullshit and that the lecture was content free.

The results of the experiment were probably influenced by the fact that the given field (education) is not a hard science, which makes it harder to detect bullshit. Life is easier for us, Oracle users. We just ask for test cases.

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One Comment on “Educational Seduction”

  1. dhoogfr says:

    quote: “The results of the experiment were probably influenced by the fact that the given field (education) is not a hard science, which makes it harder to detect bullshit.”

    yep : http://xkcd.com/451/

    😉


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