J Scott Armstrong, associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania, has demonstrated in a series of tests for both written and spoken communication, that people are impressed by “experts” from within their own field even when what is said is completely unintelligible.

Armstrong calls this the “Dr. Fox hypothesis”, based on an experiment in which an actor posed as Dr Myron Fox and delivered a lecture to a group of science professionals of “double talk”, patching raw material from a Scientific American article into non-sequiters and contradictory statements interspersed with jokes and meaningless references to unrelated topics. An anonymous questionnaire was filled out afterwards in which the professionals reported that they found the lecture clear and stimulating.

Source: Leadership Magazine, Spring 1983 (Armstrong’s results and research originally appeared in Interfaces Vol 10, No 2 and were reported in Psychology Today.)

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