Professor's Question Offers Head-Scratching Choice

But it's all in the name of psychology
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2015 7:18 PM CDT
An image of the question posted on Twitter.   (Twitter)

(Newser) – A University of Maryland psychology professor nicely offered his students free extra credit on their final exam. Or maybe "nicely" isn't the right word: "Select whether you want 2 points or 6 points added onto your final paper grade," went the instructions from Dylan Selterman to his students. "But there's a small catch: if more than 10% of the class selects 6 points, then no one gets any points." We know this because when student Shahin Rafikian tweeted an image of the question, asking, "What kind of professor does this," it quickly went viral, reports the Baltimore Sun. Selterman explains that it's all about reinforcing principles such as the "tragedy of the commons" in which individuals act in their own interests instead of the group's.

As it turns out, 20% of the class went for the six-point option, meaning nobody got any extra credit, notes Mashable. That's typical: Selterman has been offering the extra credit since 2008, and only once have students gotten any. "Some students lament the degree of selfishness amongst their peers, while other students (bravely, in my opinion) openly admit to selecting six points," Selterman tells BuzzFeed. The story is getting picked up all over, with headlines calling the choice "mind-blowing," "most evil," and "straight-up cruel." (In other brain-bending questions: Can you solve this puzzle? Hong Kong 6-year-olds can.)

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