Classroom Crushes: An Exploration of Student-Instructor Attraction - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Classroom Crushes: An Exploration of Student-Instructor Attraction

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  1. Classroom Crushes: An Exploration of Student-Instructor Attraction Emily L. Travis and Traci A. Giuliano Southwestern University Abstract Method Conclusion Student-teacher romances are often deemed inappropriate and unethical in the university setting (Bowman, Hatley, & Bowman, 1995; Skeen & Nielson, 1983); however, there is little research exploring other factors related to student-teacher relationships, such as the prevalence and moderators of student attraction to instructors. The current study sought to address this gap by asking 146 college students (83 women, 63 men) to complete a survey assessing the prevalence and basis of intellectual and romantic crushes on professors. The results revealed that intellectual crushes were more prevalent than romantic crushes and that the moderators of intellectual crushes differed from those of romantic crushes. Future research could examine differences in the perceived impropriety of the two types of crushes and could also explore potential effects of these crushes on student performance and on professor and course evaluations. A convenience sample of 146 undergraduate students (83 women, 63 men) from a small liberal arts university in central Texas completed a questionnaire that measured demographic background, experiences with intellectual and romantic crushes, and the bases for those crushes. Participant ages ranged from 18 to 24 and consisted of 26 first-years, 65 sophomores, 31 juniors, and 24 seniors. Most participants identified as being White (81.5%), but other ethnicities represented included African American (1.4%), Asian American (3.4%), Hispanic American (7.5%), multi-racial (2.7%), and “Other” (3.4%). Participants were asked on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree) the extent to which their crushes were based upon the professor’s intellect, sense of humor, attentiveness, role model status, physical attractiveness, similarity to the student, interpersonal rapport, and similarity in academic field. Furthermore, participants answered demographic information about the professor including gender, approximate age, and a rating of physical attractiveness on a scale from 1 to 10. • The results suggest that, although student-teacher romances are considered inappropriate and unethical among students and teachers alike (Bowman, Hatley, & Bowman, 1995; Skeen & Nielson, 1983), attraction to professors is still prevalent in the university setting. • It is also important to emphasize that not all student-instructor crushes are of the same nature or moderated by similar factors. Intellectual crushes are clearly based on the instructor’s intellect, whereas romantic crushes are rooted in the professor’s attractiveness. Based on previous research (Regan & Joshi, 2003) that suggests that intellect and humor are associated with relationships of more depth (e.g., serious dating relationships), it is possible that romantic and intellectual crushes differ in their depth. That is, intellectual crushes may be procured from a deeper sense of interpersonal connection whereas romantic crushes may be a more shallow manifestation of interpersonal attraction. • The implications of the present study are far reaching in the sense that at one time or another, many students will be faced with “taboo” feelings toward an instructor. Because almost half of students have experienced an intellectual crush, then it must be understood that these attractions, although inappropriate if acted upon, are harmless in their original forms. The current study also provides a previously missing link between professor evaluations and student attraction to professors in that the two types of crushes (i.e., intellectual and romantic) are moderated by two specific characteristics more than any other (i.e., intelligence and physical attractiveness, respectively), and these characteristics are closely related to teacher evaluations (Freeman, 1988; Goebel & Cashen, 1979; Kumar & Mutha, 2006). • The current study provides an opportunity for future research to examine student-teacher attraction more openly. For example, future research could examine differences in the perceived impropriety of the two types of crushes and could also explore potential effects of these crushes on student performance and on professor and course evaluations. Until then, it is difficult to determine whether teacher evaluations and student-teacher attractions merely share the same characteristics or whether they are causally linked. Introduction Instructor evaluations are a method utilized by most college and universities to gain accurate insight into the effectiveness of each individual professor’s teaching style. Although teaching evaluations are generally believed to be affected by obvious classroom characteristics, such as teaching style (Hudak & Anderson, 1984) and a teacher’s personality (Jones, 1989), they are also affected by seemingly irrelevant features such as physical attractiveness and intelligence. For example, instructor evaluations have been found to be closely related with a professor’s physical attractiveness (Freeman, 1988; Goebel & Cashen, 1979) in that professors who are rated as more attractive are also evaluated as more effective. Furthermore, a professor’s evaluations have also been linked to the professor’s level of intelligence, in that professors who are deemed more effective are more intelligent (Kumar & Mutha, 2006). Interestingly, these two factors that are closely related with a teacher’s perceived efficacy are also highly related to interpersonal attraction. Specifically, Regan and Joshi (2003) demonstrated that attributes related to physical and sexual appeal were deemed important when seeking a casual sexual partner, whereas cognitive characteristics such as intellect and humor were deemed important when seeking a romantic (i.e., serious dating relationship) partner. Because of the importance of these two characteristics in interpersonal attraction and their relevance to teacher evaluations, there comes a point when it is reasonable to wonder whether a students’ esteem for a teacher could eventually turn into attraction. In the university setting, few topics are considered as taboo as student-teacher relationships. Indeed, research on such relationships indicates that romantic involvement between students and teachers is viewed as unethical by both instructors and students (Bowman, Hatley, & Bowman, 1995; Skeen & Nielson, 1983), although it is not unreasonable to assume that such romances do occur. Much of the research in this area focuses on perceptions of impropriety in student-teacher interactions and on the bases of these perceptions (Skeen & Nielson, 1983); however, there is little research exploring other factors related to student-teacher romances, such as the prevalence and moderators of student attraction to instructors. The current study sought to address this gap. Results • Prevalence of Crushes • Intellectual crushes were more common than romantic crushes, χ2 = 28.28, p < .01. Specifically, 62 of 146 participants (42.5%) reported having intellectual crushes, whereas only 21 of 146 participants (14.4%) reported having romantic crushes. • There was a significant gender difference in the prevalence of intellectual versus romantic crushes. That is, of the crushes reported by women, 80% were intellectual (N = 40) whereas 20% were romantic (N = 10), χ2 (1, N = 50) = 9.88, p < .01. In contrast, the difference in the prevalence of intellectual (N = 22; 67%) versus romantic crushes (N = 11; 33%) for men was not significant, χ2 = 1.88, ns. • Moderating Factors • Analysis of potential moderating variables revealed that perceived intelligence was significantly more important in forming intellectual crushes than romantic crushes, t(17) = 2.15, p = .046, whereas the attractiveness of the professor was more important in forming romantic crushes than intellectual crushes, t(17) = -4.08, p = .001. • Interestingly, perceptions of professors as role models, attentive, humorous, similar to the student, high in rapport, and in the same field as the student were equally important in forming intellectual and romantic crushes. Is it their brains or their good looks? Whatever it is, many teachers will become the object of the common student crush