If it's good enough for Silicon Valley, then… | tutor2u Psychology
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If it's good enough for Silicon Valley, then surely it’s good enough for the classroom?

Consciously or subconsciously, how we present ourselves impacts the perception of others on us, which can determine our success or failure.

Recent articles have reported individuals taking active steps to change their appearance to aid their career progression. Eileen Carey, a Silicon Valley CEO admitted to dying her hair brown, stopping wearing high heels, swapping contact lenses for glasses and started wearing gender neutral clothing in a bid to appeal to investors. This behavioural change has also moved into the digital forum, with individuals selectively choosing to 'like' certain organisations or employing flattering filters on their pictures as a way of appearing more attractive to others. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerbeg, has himself been accused of staging photos to exaggerate his height. But what is the rationale behind these changes in behaviour?

What's the theory behind this?

Psychologists have long theorised why we change our appearance, theories have included:

  • Stereotyping – stereotypes are mental representations that are used to identify and differentiate between different groups, which have been found to impact how we behave and present ourselves. In the case of Eileen Carey, it could be suggested that she believed that individuals may perceive a 'blonde female CEO' in a negative light, and by changing her appearance, she would be associated with more positive stereotypes.
  • Conformity – conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a. In the case of social media, we may actively choose to like certain organisations as a way of conforming with social expectations.

Psychological theories to explain changes in human behaviour are as broad as they are varied, but they can be used to inform changes in our actions and ultimately lead to positive outcomes.

Appearance and examination success

So how can appearance lead to examination success? Let's take the analogy of a job interview. Interviewees will research and prepare answers to potential questions. What often can undermine all their hard work, is a sloppy and unrefined look e.g. non-ironed shirt. Similarly, students preparing for their final exam may revise extensively, but trip at the last hurdle with an unstructured and incoherent essay response. So in both cases, final presentation was the key to success. So how can students avoid this common pitfall?

  • Clear structure: High achieving students reach the top grades by presenting their knowledge and understanding in the most effective method. Encourage your students to develop a clear structure for their response, which will allow them to present their knowledge in a constructive way.
  • Language: Your students should link their essay together using transitional and linking words. The use of these words will strengthen their argument and indicate understanding of the topic.
  • Discussion: Encourage your students to elaborate and discuss the evidence they have presented. Ensuring that this discussion complements and draws back to the original question.
  • Conclusion: Essay responses that achieve the top grades always draw a final conclusion, this will reinforce the argument presented and draw the evidence together in a clear and concise manner.
  • Understanding not regurgitating: Remind your students that simply regurgitating the facts is not an indication of understanding, and will not enable them to achieve the top grades.

 For further information please download our Exam Writing Resource for free

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