The Doctor Fox Research (1973) Re-Revisited: 'Educational Seduction' Ruled Out
Forthcoming in Journal of Educational Psychology
32 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2012 Last revised: 19 Nov 2013
Date Written: September 1, 2012
Naftulin, Ware, and Donnelly published the study about “The Dr. Fox lecture” in 1973, claiming that an expressive speaker who delivered an attractive lecture void of any content could seduce students into believing that they had learned. Over the decades, the study has been (and still is) cited hundreds of times and used by opponents of the measurement of student evaluations of teachers (SET) as empirical proof for the lack of validity of SET. In an attempt to formulate an alternative explanation of the findings, we replicated the original study in six studies, using the original video of the lecture and following the exact methodology and data analysis method of the original study. The alternative explanations tested on several samples of students included: Acquiescence (via a reversed questionnaire and a cognitive remedy to acquiescence); Ignorance bias; Status/prestige bias; and a direct measurement of presumed learning. The Dr. Fox effect was indeed consistently replicated, but the notion of educational seduction and presumable student learning were ruled out by the empirical findings: Students indeed enjoyed the entertaining lecture, but they had not been educationally seduced into believing they had learned.
Keywords: Dr. Fox effect, students’ evaluation of teachers, SET, educational seduction
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