Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Dr. Fox Effect

Mad Science Experiments explains the experiment that lead to the term, the Dr. Fox Effect. I had never heard this term before reading this article, but it makes perfect sense to me.
The lecture that Myron L. Fox delivered to the assembled experts had an impressive enough title: ‘Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physician Education’. Fox was billed as an ‘authority on the application of mathematics to human behavior’. His polished performance so impressed the audience that nobody noticed that the man standing at the lectern wasn’t just Myron L. Fox from the Albert Einstein School of Medicine: he was also the attorney Amos Feders from ‘Falcon Crest’ and the vet Dr Benson from ‘Columbo’, who looked after the inspector’s dog. Myron L. Fox’s real name was Michael Fox, and he was an actor (though no relation of Michael J. Fox of ‘Back to the Future’ fame). And he didn’t know the first thing about game theory.

All that Fox had done was to take a scholarly article on game theory and work up a lecture from it that was quite intentionally full of imprecise waffle, invented words and contradictory assertions. Fox delivered this lecture in a very humorous tone, all the while making specious references to other supposed works. The people behind this spoof were John E. Ware, Donald H. Naftulin and Frank A. Donnelly, who wanted to use this demonstration to spark a discussion on the content of the further education programme. The experiment was designed to find out whether it a brilliant delivery technique could so completely bamboozle a group of experts that they overlooked the fact that the content was nonsense. John Ware put in hours of practice with the actor, to the point where the text had been stripped of all its substance. As Ware reported, "the problem was to keep him [Michael Fox] from making sense".

Fox was convinced he’d be rumbled. But the audience hung on his every word...
Very interesting, and evidence that far too many people place more importance on style than on substance.

Check out 10 Weirdest Experiments for more strangenesses.

1 comment:

  1. Hell, any good politician is expert at that technique.