A "classic" revisited: Students' immediate and delayed evaluations of a warm/cold instructor

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Solomon Asch's classic (1946) "warm/cold" research was replicated in this study with introductory psychology professors, using students' evaluations of teaching (SET) as dependent variables. Students completed attributed course evaluation forms three times: (a) after receiving fabricated "warm" or "cold" information but before seeing the instructor; (b) after a 30-minute exposure to the instructor in an introductory lecture; and (c) at the end of the semester. In the first administration, strong warm/cold differences were found for the social components of SET, and warm instructors were also judged as more lenient. In the larger courses of Instructor B (but not in the smaller courses of Instructor A), the cold instructor was judged higher than the warm one in academic components of SET. In the second administration, following a 30-minute exposure to the instructor, students' judgments changed considerably, most warm/cold effects disappeared, and, unlike the common reports in the literature, we found only a moderate level of perseverance. In the third administration, all warm/cold differences practically disappeared, with no evidence of prolonged perseverance. These findings were interpreted as demonstrating students' flexibility in accommodating their judgments to the accumulating real-life information. It was argued that although cognitive factors determine a certain level of perseverance (especially in a short exposure), motivational factors and cognitive style play a major role in determining whether initial judgments will persevere or not. Students' personal beliefs in human changeability were found related to their actual change in judgment, incremental theorists (those believing in changeability) showing more change than entity theorists (those believing in fixed, unchangeable traits). Thus, perseverance of judgments is also related to systematic individual differences in students' cognitive style. © 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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Social Psychology of Education

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