The Joker picture will make sense in a minute, so bear with me.
A University of Maryland professor named Dylan Selterman has been torturing his students with an extra credit conundrum that has only worked out for them one time since 2008. Selterman gives his students a shot at getting extra points on their final paper grade and they don’t even have to answer a question or study for anything. They don’t even have to remember anything. They just need to make a choice: Do they want two extra points or six? So, what’s the catch?
…[I]f 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.
It’s the Prisoner’s Dilemma. You’ve seen it before — in the ferry scene in The Dark Knight. In this case, Selterman is the Joker, making students his prisoners and innocent ferry passengers, making them choose between doing something selfish or selfless with the promise of something good if it all happens to work out in the end. Except in the case of the students, it’s not their lives they’re trying to gamble with, it’s just points.
Either way, it’s a little bit of game theory to round out the semester, and it’s only worked out in the students’ favor one time, when enough students chose the two-point option to grant two extra points to the whole class. But every other time, more than 10 percent of the students chose the six-point option, denying the whole class points. Because desperate times call for desperate measures and it’s all or nothing, I guess.