Negative Reputation and Biased Student Evaluations of Teaching: Longitudinal Results from a Naturally Occurring Experiment

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This longitudinal, naturally occurring field experiment simultaneously tested several important limitations of previous research regarding a negative reputation biasing ratings of work performance (student evaluations of teaching). First-year MBA students were randomly assigned to intervention and control sections of the same course. Unfavorable information about the treatment-group professor created a negative reputation that persisted in the midst of very disconfirming actual positive performance. The naturally occurring intervention biased individuals' decision-making process and resulted in inaccurate ratings of professor performance and negative halo error judgments of course materials, grading, and the amount learned. Additional data for the treatment-group professor but without a reputation corroborated these findings. Evidence also indicated that trait emotional intelligence and assertiveness mitigated the biasing effect of the reputation. Implications regarding the use of student evaluations of teaching are shared, and suggestions are offered to help mitigate and manage reputation biases.

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