The Dr. Fox Effect
This presentation, an in-joke among engineers, is technobabble but manages to seem oddly persuasive. In 1970, John Ware and Reed Williams of the University of Southern California School of Medicine ran an experiment that helps to show why.
The researchers arranged lectures on mathematical game theory for two audiences of psychiatrists and psychologists. In one classroom the lecturer was an actual scientist, and in the other he was an actor playing “Dr. Myron L. Fox” who’d been given one day to prepare a lecture “with an excessive use of double-talk, neologisms, non sequiturs, and contradicting statements.”
When both Fox and the scientist delivered their material in an inexpressive monotone, the scientist’s students performed better on an examination. But when both spoke engagingly, the students rated the charlatan as highly as the expert.
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