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~What does an office door say about the person inside?~

For immediate release:
Aug. 9, 2002

Arlie Corday,
781-283-3321 or 2373

WELLESLEY, Mass. - College students will soon stand in front of their professors' office doors to ask for an extension on an essay paper or to discuss that unfortunate 'C' on last week's pop quiz. While waiting, what they see on that office door may make them feel more welcome - or more intimidated.

Wellesley College psychology professor R. Steven Schiavo has studied the office door decorations of college faculty members.

"We were interested to see to what extent students formed impressions of professors from their door decorations, and to what extent these impressions reflected the professors' actual message," he said. "Students viewed slides of professors' office doors and rated their impressions."

Previously, the professors had been interviewed about their reasons for decorating their doors.

Content - say, a Dilbert cartoon vs. a class schedule-had an effect on students' impressions. Teachers who papered their doors with helpful or entertaining items were seen as happier and more concerned than those who left doors mostly bare.

"Professors displaying more items were perceived to want students to feel comfortable in their offices, to encourage students to seek academic assistance, to be willing to hear students' concerns and to be more enthusiastic about their academic discipline," Schiavo reported.

But just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't necessarily psych out your teacher by studying his or her office door.

"Student impressions only weakly reflected the professors' concern for students when decorating," Schiavo said.

While some professors put more effort into decorating their doors because they wanted them to appeal to students, not all did. Door decorations may simply define their turf or express their individuality.

"Nevertheless, the results underscore that door decorations strongly influence how students perceive professors," Schiavo said. "Door decorations can create strong, positive student perceptions of the office occupant."

This fall, as teachers go back to the classroom, it seems the messages they send via their office doors may help start the year off on a positive note - or a negative one.

Founded in 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in liberal arts and the education of women for 125 years. The College's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students.


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  • Date Modified: Aug. 9, 2002
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