Psychology professor's tricky extra credit question goes viral

Posted by $ splumb 5 years, 3 months ago to Education
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"I would hope that any student who chose six points would, in the future, think twice about the selfish option and think about what's best for the group and — by extension — what's best for them."
(edited to add picture)
SOURCE URL: http://www.freep.com/story/news/2015/07/17/psychology-professor-extra-credit-question/30317151/


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  • Posted by WilliamCharlesCross 5 years, 3 months ago
    One thing missing in the analysis is that often in competitive grading, there are only a certain amount of top grades given out--so raising everyone the same amount wouldn't necessarily benefit anyone.

    Another thing to consider is that the top students will usually know they are the top students, and would therefore "selfishly" opt for the 6 points, not to pad their own score but to ensure that no one gets extra points--they would know they are helping sink the ship by appearing selfish, and would stay atop the rankings no matter the outcome of the collective choices made.
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    • Posted by $ rainman0720 5 years, 3 months ago
      Good point. But there's another benefit to taking your approach: It would help ensure that nobody got anything they didn't earn. Good students earned what they have; why should bad students be given points they didn't earn?
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  • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 5 years, 3 months ago
    The obvious answer is none of the above. Choose neither of the provided answers. Don't put words in my mouth. Anyone choosing has enslaved themselves to someone elses's agenda.

    Objectively speaking independent thought and moral philosophy rules the day.
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  • Posted by $ winterwind 5 years, 3 months ago
    I didn't see the question, but I can gather enough from your comments, all, what it was.
    how about declining to play on the grounds that the table's rigged? how about rewriting the question? how about refusing to answer because everybody knows that this question is written so as to convince us that taking care of our selves is ALWAYS a bad idea? and it isn't.

    my personal fave so far: a clean surgical critique of a professor who would write such a question.
    idiot.
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    • Posted by strugatsky 5 years, 3 months ago
      Precisely - an idiot. In the face of indisputable facts (he's been getting the same results for years), he refuses to accept reality. That is, that humans will always look out for themselves, not for others. One can channel public behavior, but cannot change human nature. And the artificially channeled behavior will always manifest itself in grotesque results. So, instead of recognizing human nature and finding and embracing methods and systems that are based on reality and accept human nature, this idiot, for I cannot call him any other name, is expecting the sea to part to his command. Idiot!
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    • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 5 years, 3 months ago
      A real life example would be the flood of government forms promoting racism by offering their version of race or ethnicity. My standard answer is not a check mark but a penned comment. "You should be ashamed of yourself for asking a racist question."
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  • Posted by jdg 5 years, 3 months ago
    "Tragedy of the commons" situations do exist, but the way to prevent the tragedy is to establish individual property rights so that Coase's theorem can operate. Without them, the only way to a non-tragic outcome would be for most people to sacrifice their own gains -- and it's stupid ever to do that or to expect anyone to do that.
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  • Posted by bsmith51 5 years, 3 months ago
    Sarcasm Loading; Please Wait
    This "smarter than you" professor makes a great case for "progressive" eugenics.
    Anyway, I prefer the extra credit thermodynamics question that asks whether hell is endo- or exothermic.
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  • Posted by Madanthonywayne 5 years, 3 months ago
    Here's an interesting twist. Was the class graded on a curve? If so, the only rational answer was six. If everyone gets 2 points or zero points, your grade would be unchanged, but if you are among the 19% or less who got 6 points, your grade goes up.
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    • Posted by plusaf 5 years, 3 months ago
      I took several courses where grade results were bent into a 'curve.'

      I always pictured that to be more of a test OF the Test than the students' comprehension or abilities... or the instructor's effectiveness.

      If everyone fails OR gets an A, what does that say?
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  • Posted by plusaf 5 years, 3 months ago
    The assertion that selfishness 'caused' the CA water shortage is not logical. Unless you consider the selfishness of Power by the government there.
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  • Posted by Watcher55 5 years, 3 months ago
    "Today's lesson is: an arbitrary power offers you an arbitrary reward and an arbitrary punishment. What you choose helps determine the result, according to the rule I, as your Overlord, have made up. Choose wisely, and learn that there is no real winning when ruled by people like me."
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  • Posted by Herb7734 5 years, 3 months ago
    I'd fire this jerk
    Barring that, as an objectivist, I couldn't answer the question without getting into an argument (discussion?) with the teacher, who doesn't seem to be the type who'd tolerate it.
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  • Posted by Riftsrunner 5 years, 3 months ago
    This is a perfect example of why communism/socialism fails. Human being are social animals true, but we are animals and are subject to the laws of nature at a very primal level. Our social parts aren't for the betterment of the group, but to ensure that our risks are minimized. In the past when our ancestors were roving bands of nomads there were dangers to life and limb that acting as an individual would literally get you killed. So by forming groups we lowered our overall risk of being picked off by the grim reaper. But biology has a strict rule for life and that is to do everything possible to further your genetic line. So while I might want to join a group for safety, I am also going to prefer myself and my relatives over non-related person in such a group. And when faced with sacrificing a gene relative or unrelated person, the unrelated person gets to be lion chow. So while this question has no real danger to my mortality, I need to act accordingly to be true to my biological imperitive to further my existance and my genetic line. Unfortunately for socialism/communism that is never factored into the equation because in those systems in order to succeed everyone has to be equal. So everyone is equal, some are just more equal to paraphase George Orwell's Animal Farm. And we as social animals are constantly weighing costs versus benifits through that lens.
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  • Posted by $ KahnQuest 5 years, 3 months ago
    We need to start calling this what it is (tripe, crap, indoctrination), and do so publicly.

    My comment on the story at Yahoo: "The question is stupid, and reduces students to the mindset of kindergartners; i.e. share with others because I told you to share. It's possible to serve oneself without harming others, and in the real world these students will encounter many opportunities to do so. One can only hope that they still have the capacity to recognize those opportunities."

    So far I have one thumbs-down vote.
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  • Posted by Owlsrayne 5 years, 3 months ago
    The Psychology Prof I had in college who have never have done that. I had to write my finger to the bone to get extra credit. My Statistical Psych Prof came up with some outlandish stat question that the class had to figure out and then we had to write an interpretation to our findings.
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  • Posted by $ blarman 5 years, 3 months ago
    Interesting false dichotomy. But really all you are doing is throwing out a false lifeline to the poor performers which consists of their faith in the other students' succumbing to guilt.
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  • Posted by coaldigger 5 years, 3 months ago
    I would select 6 and hope that everyone did as well. I do not steal because if I don't earn it, I don't want it. I don't gamble for the same reason. If I am forced to violate my principles, I want the highest price: rob the largest bank, win the powerball, 6 points vs. 2.
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  • Posted by BradA 5 years, 3 months ago
    The answer is obvious. 6 points in the hope that more than 10% will select this choice. Any points awarded with this question will have been unearned and so undeserved. How is it the common good if someone passes this test but does not understand the subject well enough to do so without this cheat?
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  • Posted by $ Susanne 5 years, 3 months ago
    By participating in the test itself, with its bizarre "extra credit" social experiment, whether you answered the question or not you're still sanctioning this idiot. I don't care if he learned it at John Hopkins or Hopkin's john, it makes me think that going on strike from this test, and this professor, would have been the only rational answer.
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  • Posted by conscious1978 5 years, 3 months ago
    It's a poor analogy for life and an artificial construct without much to offer. Life is very rarely limited in such a way. But, I guess it is another lesson in how to steal concepts in setting up a false choice.

    "Earn extra credit"...righhht.
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  • Posted by $ Radio_Randy 5 years, 3 months ago
    I would've gone for the 6 points as I'm sure there would have been a lot of bleeding hearts that would only select 2.

    I've always heard that "nice guys finish last".
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  • Posted by dwlievert 5 years, 3 months ago
    The person who was not interested in obtaining something for nothing, would immediately reject the offer and move on. He or she would recognize that what was being offered was a morally self-serving illustration that only illustrates a mind already disinterested in reality, only their preconceived notions of it. As such it fits perfectly with the state of the social sciences.
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