Is this the smartest -- or cruelest -- extra credit question ever offered?

Professor's 'Cruel' Extra Credit Question Goes Viral
Professor's 'Cruel' Extra Credit Question Goes Viral

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (KCPQ) -- A good professor can challenge their students, while at the same time teaching them that life ain't always fair.

Since 2008, a University of Maryland professor has asked his students if they want extra credit on their final paper. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Well, it's not.

In what's a sort of a social experiment for the classroom, the teacher proposes this offer for extra credit on the final paper:

Here you have the opportunity to earn some extra credit on your final paper grade. Select whether you want 2 points of 6 points added onto your final paper grade. But there's a small catch: if more than 10% of the class selects 6 points, then no one gets any points. Your responses will be anonymous to the rest of the class, only I will see the responses.

So basically, if the individual acts good for the group, everyone gets extra credit. However, if enough students act selfishly -- or smartly, some might argue -- no one benefits. Greed trumps good. The Tragedy of the Commons.

Students were quick to notice how well-crafted the question really is.

Professor Dylan Selterman is the mind behind the madness, Seventeen Magazine reports. Selterman told Seventeen that he has conducted the exercise in every class he has taught since 2008, and only one class has ever gotten the two extra credit points. Hinting, perhaps, that at least a small fraction of society is always a tad selfish.

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Selterman said he chose 10 percent of the class because it seems like a reasonable cutoff. He said the question is just for fun, and he doesn't monitor the results with any consistency to use later for research.

"I don't keep (publish) the results," Selterman said.

We wish we were surprised that most are too tempted by the selfish six points to do what's good for the group.

But people have been doing this kind of thing since the dawn of time. Well, some people.