Probably like most instructors (at all levels), I wonder a lot of the time how much my students actually pay attention to anything that I say. (My students’ exam scores would indicate that, on average, they listen to about 75 percent of what I say.) Sometimes I’m dismayed at their reaction, as when I literally saw students’ heads go down on their desks when I referred to the concept of logit and probit regressions. (I wasn’t even asking them to do anything with them, only to remember what they were and that they exist!)
Other times, I am really impressed by the details that my students pay attention to and later remember. Case in point: check out the following lecture on overchoice:
(Or, if you prefer, in PDF form.)
Hopefully those slides were interesting enough on their own, but they were only part of the story. Technically speaking, those slides were presented over the course of 2 class meetings, and as soon as I started my lecture on the second day a hand shot up in the front row:
Student: *looks at paper reference on lecture slide* Is this the same professor who was on The Daily Show the other day?
Me: What now?
Student: Professor Iyengar. I think there was someone by that name on The Daily Show.
Me: I’m pretty sure that Sheena Iyengar is a professor at Columbia, so it’s entirely possible.
At this point the rest of the class wasn’t going to forgo an excuse to shut me up, so I went on the show’s web site and searched for “Iyengar.” Sure enough, this is what I found:
This so confirms my hypothesis that we need more Jon Stewarts to trick people into learning. It also confirms my suspicion that knowing about the overchoice problem doesn’t make one better able to overcome it. (If you don’t believe me, try going on the Internet and picking out the right video camera for you. I dare you.)
Update: OH MY GOD THE INTERNET. I went to google to find an appropriate overchoice link for an inquiring friend when I stumbled on a lesson in overchoice in interpretive dance form. Not sure I would have gotten to that conclusion on my own, but it’s right there in the video description.