Brief Report

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 1350-1356

First online:

Appearances can be deceiving: instructor fluency increases perceptions of learning without increasing actual learning

  • Shana K. CarpenterAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Iowa State University Email author 
  • , Miko M. WilfordAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Iowa State University
  • , Nate KornellAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Williams College
  • , Kellie M. MullaneyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Iowa State University


The present study explored the effects of lecture fluency on students’ metacognitive awareness and regulation. Participants watched one of two short videos of an instructor explaining a scientific concept. In the fluent video, the instructor stood upright, maintained eye contact, and spoke fluidly without notes. In the disfluent video, the instructor slumped, looked away, and spoke haltingly with notes. After watching the video, participants in Experiment 1 were asked to predict how much of the content they would later be able to recall, and participants in Experiment 2 were given a text-based script of the video to study. Perceived learning was significantly higher for the fluent instructor than for the disfluent instructor (Experiment 1), although study time was not significantly affected by lecture fluency (Experiment 2). In both experiments, the fluent instructor was rated significantly higher than the disfluent instructor on traditional instructor evaluation questions, such as preparedness and effectiveness. However, in both experiments, lecture fluency did not significantly affect the amount of information learned. Thus, students’ perceptions of their own learning and an instructor’s effectiveness appear to be based on lecture fluency and not on actual learning.


Metacognition Memory Overconfidence Processing ease Fluency