The crowd in mind and crowded minds: an experimental investigation of crowding effects on students’ views regarding tuition fees in Germany
In higher education, just amounts of tuition fees are often a topic of heated debate among different groups such as students, university teachers, administrative staff, and policymakers. We investigated whether unpleasant situations that students often experience at university due to social crowding can affect students’ views on the justified amount of tuition fees at universities. We report two experiments on whether conditions that lead to experienced crowding in higher education can affect how students cognitively deal with a given topic. Experiment 1 (N = 80) showed that the mere cognitive activation of crowdedness in text stories about situations related to student activities influenced prospective students’ estimates of what are justified university tuition fees. In Experiment 2 (N = 72), student participants wrote an essay on tuition fees in a small versus large room in groups of three versus six persons. Here, results showed that students together with relatively many others in a small room estimated higher tuition fees to be justified than participants in all other experimental conditions. We discuss the implications of the present findings for the configuration of classes in higher education.
KeywordsSocial crowding Proxemics Higher education Opinion formation Tuition fees
The authors wish to express their gratitude to Marijke H. Adelt and Christina Hanna for their help with data collection. Jens Riehemann and two anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments to an earlier draft of this manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
All procedures performed in the studies involving human participants were in accordance with applicable ethical standards, including those specified by the APA (American Psychological Association 2012) or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was provided by all individual participants included in the present research, as specified in the descriptions of the experiments.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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