The Effect of Authority on the Persuasiveness of Mathematical Arguments
Cognition and Instruction Volume 27, Number 1 (January 2009)
Matthew Inglis, Juan Pablo Mejia-Ramos
Three experiments are reported that investigate the extent to which an authority figure influences the level of persuasion undergraduate students and research-active mathematicians invest in mathematical arguments. We demonstrate that, in some situations, both students and researchers rate arguments as being more persuasive when they are associated with an expert mathematician than when the author is anonymous. We develop a model that accounts for these data by suggesting that, for both students and researchers, an authority figure only plays a role when there is already some uncertainty about the argument's mathematical status. Implications for pedagogy, and for future research, are discussed.