Vintage Hoax: Fake Academic Talk Receives Applause

In 1970, organizers of an academic conference in Lake Tahoe launched their event with a lecture on game theory.  But it wasn’t real.

Attendees gathered in a conference room to hear a presentation entitled Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physician Education.  They were told to they’d be listening to Myron L. Fox from the Albert Einstein School of Medicine deliver the talk.  But unbeknownst to the audiance, an actor would stand in to deliver the speech, an actor that knew nothing of Game Theory (or its application to anything).

The actor crafted a narrative comprised entirely of platitudes, double-speak,  imprecise waffle, invented words, off-topic humor, and contradictory assertions.  But the delivery was perfect.  The audience of academics laughed at the right moments, clapped at the end, and even earnestly asked questions about game theory.

A Los Angeles Times journalist later wrote : “There are implications in this study, though, that even its instigators have not perceived. If an actor makes a better teacher, why not a better congressman, or even a better President?”

Read more about the study here.