What Does the Fox Say? Turns Out It Doesn’t Matter

In 1970, the University of Southern California School of Medicine conducted an experiment.

They wanted to test whether MDs and PhDs would differentiate the teaching performance of an actual scientist lecturing on a topic (in this case Mathematical Game Theory) and an actor.

One arm of the trial had the actor deliver his message in a monotone voice and when compared to the scientist, the actor was rated less favorably.  But when the actor, introduced as Dr. Myron L Fox, delivered his message in an engaging and enthusiastic manner, even when coached to deliver his speech ‘with an excessive use of double talk, neologisms, non sequiturs, and contradictory statements’ the MDs and PhDs rated Dr. Fox just as highly as the actual scientist.  This was accomplished not just with one but three different audiences of professionals.

This became known as the “Dr. Fox Effect.”

“The disturbing feature of the Dr. Fox study, as the experimenters noted, is that Fox’s nonverbal behaviors so completely masked a meaningless, jargon-filled, and confused presentation.”

There you have it. Turns out it doesn’t matter what the fox says, he just has to say it with conviction, enthusiasm and congruence.

The question is, how often do you listen to the fox and how often are you the fox?

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