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Did you ever hear of the "Dr. Fox Effect?"
In a classic experiment conducted by Donald Naftulin, John Ware, and Frank Donnelly in the early 1970s, three separate groups of professionals attended a lecture titled, "Mathematical game theory and its application to physician education.” The professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and educational administrators, were all attending continuing education training conferences.
In the description about the speaker, they were told that "Dr. Myron L. Fox" was a student of John von Neumann and an authority on game theory in his own right. As the author of books and articles on game theory and mathematics, Dr. Fox's expertise was, to put it mildly, considerable.
The reality was very different, however. The speaker introducted to the as "Dr. Fox" was actually a paid actor whose only knowledge of game theory consisted of one Scientific American article he had read to prepare for the role. Naftulin, Ware, and Donnelly had coached him to present his lecture "with an excessive use of double-talk, neologisms, non sequiturs, and contradicting statements.” In fact, many of the people in the audience likely knew more about game theory than he did.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.
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