Study Analysis: The Impact of Appearance on Learning

Study Analysis

This study analysis explores the research on how appearances affect learning. Shana Carpenter, Miko Wilford, Nate Kornell, and Kellie Mullaney conducted their research in 2013. The topic is important because its results can inform educational institutions on how to develop teaching strategies. The research topic follows the cognitive perspective, which examines a person’s behavior based on the way they interpret, perceive, and recall events around them. The research question is, does an instructor’s fluency influence the students’ prediction of learning?

Literature Review

There is a need for learners to understand how to gauge their knowledge accurately. Students tend to make a higher prediction of their learning than the actual level when verbal delivery occurs in a fluent manner (Carpenter et al., 2013). The study investigated the effect of the instructor’s fluency on the students’ estimation of learning using videos and tests. The students watched a video and afterward answered a quiz to measure their knowledge. In one video, the instructor maintained an upright posture, eye contact, used gestures, and spoke fluently without notes. In the second video, the speaker was not fluent, leaned on a podium, read notes, and did not sustain eye contact (Carpenter et al., 2013). The participants then estimated how much information they would remember after 10 minutes in experiment one. In experiment two, the participants received a text script of the video to study. Afterward, all the participants answered the evaluation questions. In a previous study, Carpenter and Olson (2012) found out that inaccurate learning predictions by students were detrimental to the learning process. However, as long as learners can disassociate from bias, the perceptions of learning correlate with actual knowledge.


Experiment One

The researchers selected 42 undergraduate students and randomly assigned 21 students to watch each video about calico cats. The video capture process was identical, but the speaker assumed fluency in one video and a non-fluent style in the other video. Each participant sat in an individual room with a computer and received a notification of a subsequent test. After viewing the video, the participants answered the question of how much information they would recall after 10 minutes, on a scale of 0-100%. Participants also responded to questions on the overall effectiveness of the speaker and self-evaluation. The answers were on a range of 1-5, with five representing very well learned (Carpenter et al., 2013). The researchers then used a distractor test before giving a test quiz on the video. The independent variable was the speaker’s fluency, while the dependent variable was student performance.

Experiment Two

The second experiment examined how an instructor’s fluency affected the student’s decisions to study. After watching a video, the participants got a text script of the video to explore without time limits. The researchers noted how long the students choose to study. Seventy students participated, with 35 watching each of the videos. After studying, the students did a distractor test then answered the evaluation questions. The independent variable for the experiment was the speaker’s fluency, while the dependent variables were the performance and the time of studying.


The results section had a graph showing mean performance against the speaker’s fluency. The results answer the research question by proving that high instructor fluency leads to a greater than actual learning prediction by students. A disfluent speaker marginally influenced the learners’ measurement of learning. In both cases, the actual levels of knowledge did not differ much. The second experiment shows that students who watched the fluent speaker used a marginally shorter time to study the script than the students who viewed the disfluent speaker.


The experiments showed that the students of a fluent instructor misjudged their level of learning. For the fluent and disfluent speakers, the actual levels of learning were comparable. Further, the experiment revealed that fluency does not significantly impact learners’ study. Studying draws patterns from a learner’s habits than from the instructor’s fluency. However, an instructor’s behavior may have a marginal impact on studying patterns. The limitation of this study was the subjective nature of eloquence, which interferes with accurate determinations. Further studies should relate fluency findings with objective factors in learning.

Follow-up Experiment

The research on how fluency affects students revealed that instructors have a significant influence on learners. The follow-up research will examine other instructor-related factors that affect student perceptions and performance. The study will examine how an instructor’s dressing style affects students’ concentration. The independent variable will be dressing, while the dependent variable will be students’ level of attentiveness. The research question is, how does an instructor’s dressing influence students’ attention?

Proposed Method

The research would incorporate 40 undergraduate students. For the first experiment, 20 participants watch a 10-minute video clip of a lecturer dressed in formal clothing. After watching, the students would answer questions on what the speaker said at specific times during the video. In a second experiment, 20 participants would watch a 10-minute video of an instructor in casual clothes and afterward answer questions on what the speaker said at specific periods of the video. The responses would be on a scale of 0-5. The independent variable would be the dressing, while the dependent variable would be the student’s level of attentiveness and performance.

Expected Results

The student who watched the formally dressed lecturer would record higher results in the evaluation questions than the students who viewed the casual instructor video. Figure 1 below illustrates the results.

A graphical representation of student performance data from the experiment
Fig. 1. A graphical representation of student performance data from the experiment

Overall Discussion

The students of the formally dressed instructor recorded high performance than those of the casually dressed speaker. Formal dressing presents an atmosphere of seriousness and focus compared to casual dressing that encourages relaxation and less focus. Therefore, whenever a lecturer wears formal clothing, they are likely to discourage care-free attitudes among students and instead build a professional and focused approach necessary for success. While students may be able to overlook the differences in dressing after a short period, the initial impressions linger in the mind of students and play a crucial role in the overall performance.


The study proved that instructor fluency causes students to overestimate their learning in comparison to the actual amount of information gathered. The follow-up experiment also reveals that the instructor’s dressing influences the performance of students. The type of dressing sets the tone for learning because the dressing is an expression of a person’s inner disposition. If an instructor dresses formally, he or she unconsciously reveals they are composed and focused as compared to a casual dressing that presents a relaxed, carefree attitude. Research in psychology seeks to explain behavior patterns by examining various triggers in different aspects of life and the environment.


Carpenter, S., & Olson, K. (2012). Are pictures good for learning new vocabulary in a foreign language? Only if you think they are not. Experimental Psychology Journal, 38(1), 92-101.

Carpenter, S., Wilford, M., Kornell, N., & Mullaney, K. (2013). Appearances can be deceiving: Instructor fluency increases perceptions of learning without increasing actual learning. Psychonomic Bulletin, 20(6), 1350-1356.

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