I had ideas for umpteen blogs. Here is where they all somehow converge and I attempt to do something productive with my sprawling web presence.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Social psychology professor's extra credit question goes viral
Does the good of the many outweigh that of the few? Dr. Dylan Selterman, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland posed an extra credit question that confounded many of his social psychology students. The question also went viral, lighting up the Twitterverse.
It started with one tweet. @shaunhin asked what kind of professor would do such a thing and suddenly, the tweet was making local news channels worldwide. The question essentially gives students a choice of taking two extra credit points or six, but there’s a catch. If more than ten percent of the class chose the higher number, then nobody would get any extra credit at all.
Yahoo Health reports, July 18 that Dr. Selterman can’t take full credit for the exercise. He told USA Today College “I first learned about this when I was in a college. My professor, Steve Drigotas, used this exercise with my class.”
The quiz question illustrates a dilemma called “The Tragedy of the Commons.” It was coined by Garrett Hardin, an American ecologist who warned of the dangers of overpopulation. “The tragedy of the commons is basically a dilemma between doing what’s good for you as an individual versus doing what’s best for the group” explained Selterman. “Now it stands to reason that people behave selfishly. But if too many people behave selfishly, the group will suffer…and then everyone in the group individually will suffer.”
Selterman has used this same question with numerous students since 2008, and so far only one group of students has earned the extra credit. “Fortune favors the bold,” responded one Twitter user. In this case, that response was far from the truth because approximately twenty percent of the class chose to be bold. @shaunhin responded to his professor on Twitter, that he did enjoy the question, even if more than ten percent of his class chose to make the gamble on six points and lost.