Hi! We are Courtney Howell and Shelly Engelman, evaluators at SageFox Consulting Group in Atlanta, GA. We are social psychologists who happen to be education evaluators. As such, we regularly employ our social psychology backgrounds to inform our work.
Persuasion is part of every aspect of life. This reality is no different for evaluation. Persuasion also plays a role in evaluation reporting, ensuring that clients, users, and funders will engage with your report/proposal in the way you intended, leading to a positive outcome that benefits the program. Recently, we identified three social psychological concepts that can be readily employed to enhance the ability of reports to communicate findings. Here are a few effective techniques that we have adopted in our evaluation reporting practices:
- Primacy and Recency Effect: People tend to recall the first and last things in a series best and the middle items worst. A Recency Effect happens when people encounter unsalient, non-controversial, uninteresting, and unfamiliar material. Salient, interesting, controversial material produces a Primacy Effect.Lesson Learned: When composing a report, we want to put the most interesting and familiar things first and the non-controversial, and unfamiliar things last.
- Rad Resource: Structuring and Ordering Persuasive Messages
- Mere Exposure Effect: People tend to develop a preference for things simply because they are familiar with them. Mere Exposure Effect enhances perceptual fluency which is the ease with which new ideas can be processed and internalized. Remember, familiarity breeds liking.
- Lesson Learned: Clients may be more likely to accept feedback if it is repeatedly highlighted across reports.
- Rad Resource: Attitudinal Effects of Mere Exposure
- Confirmation Bias: The tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses. In fact, people tend to stick to a position even after the evidence has shown it was false.
- Lesson Learned: To avoid confirmation bias, call attention to information that may go against expectations by using a visual marker (like an exclamation mark) to point to messages that are inconsistent with the rest of the report. Play devil’s advocate to suggest alternative ways of interpreting the data/findings.
- Rad Resource: Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government
- Rad Resource: To further explore the intersectionality of social psychology and evaluation: See Melvin Mark, Stewart Donaldson and Bernadette Campbell’s text on Social Psychology and Evaluation.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Ed Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the PK12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Ed Eval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.