In their study about the Dr. Fox lecture, Naftulin, Ware, and Donnelly (1973) claimed that an expressive speaker who delivered an attractive lecture devoid of any content could seduce students into believing that they had learned something significant. 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 1973 study, using the original video of the lecture and following the exact methodology of the original study. The alternative explanations tested on several samples of students included (a) acquiescence bias (via a reversed questionnaire and a cognitive remedy); (b) ignorance bias (participants' lack of familiarity with the lecture content); (c) status/prestige bias (presentation of the speaker as a world authority); and (d) a direct measurement of students' reports about their presumed learning. The Dr. Fox effect was indeed consistently replicated in all samples. However, the originally proposed notion of educational seduction leading to presumable (illusory) student learning was ruled out by the empirical findings: Students indeed enjoyed the entertaining lecture, but they had not been seduced into believing they had learned. We discuss the relevance of metacognitive considerations to the inclusion of self-reported learning in this study, and to the wider issue of the incorporation of student learning in the contemporary measurement of SET.
- Dr. Fox effect
- Educational seduction
- Students' evaluation of teachers