Discovered: The Amazing Dr. Fox Video
One famous speech in public speaking history is the Dr. Fox lecture. Researchers hired an actor to pose as an expert, and he gave a meaningless, but complex sounding, jargon filled speech to a group of true experts. The result? The majority of them were fooled into thinking they’d learned something, despite there being no substance to the lecture.
From the researchers:
The authors hypothesized that given a sufficiently impressive lecture paradigm, even experienced educators participating in a new learning experience can be seduced into feeling satisfied that they have learned despite irrelevant, conflicting, and meaningless content conveyed by the lecturer… The authors conclude by emphasizing that student satisfaction with learning may represent little more than the illusion of having learned.
It’s a canonical reference on how vulnerable to B.S. we all can be and how much power a good speaker has, power than be used for good or bad.
The problem is the lecture was impossible to find. During research for Confessions of a Public Speaker (Chapter 8 explores the implications of Dr. Fox for speakers and audiences), I couldn’t find a single person who had seen the video, much less had a copy. Thanks to Mikhail Simkin, it’s now online.
Here is the Dr. Fox video and the paper describing the study (with data).