The Fox News morning show, Fox and Friends, hosted a University of Maryland professor whose quiz question has become the topic of a lot of discussion, and they managed to get the professor’s conclusions completely wrong.
Dr. Dylan Selterman teaches psychology. On an exam, he posed this question to his students:
Select whether you want 2 points or 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.
Fox sent a reporter to the New York Yankees game to ask people whether they would choose two or six points. After playing a clip of people’s comments, host Brian Kilmeade observes that about half of those questioned said they would take the six points.
Business Insider says that Selterman has been giving this question on a quiz since 2008, and so far only one class has gotten the extra points. The question illustrates something called the “Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Tragedy of the Commons.”
Selterman explains the dilemma to the Fox and Friends crew as being a choice between what would be better for one’s self, and what would be better for the community. He tells host Elisabeth Hasselbeck that every semester, the results are pretty consistent. About 20 percent of each class chooses the six points, which means that nobody gets anything. Twenty percent of the class chooses to help themselves over helping the community. That means that 80 percent are more concerned with the common good.
Steve Doocy, who apparently flunked math in school, happily observes,
Ultimately, what you’ve found with your own students… is, we’re greedy, and we want six.
You can almost feel the glee coming from Doocy. He seems to be channeling Gordon Gecko, and thinking “Yes! We’re all greedy. Greed is GOOD!” But Selterman pops the bubble. He chuckles, and says, “Well, ok, so most people choose two points.”
This segment looks like Fox News was ready to bring on Dr. Selterman to get confirmation that it’s okay to be greedy. “See, it’s okay for billionaires and Wall Street types to be greedy. We all are. They’re just more successful at it, and if you work harder, you can be rich from your greed, too,” appears to be the underlying theme. Of course, they completely missed the part about the majority of Selterman’s students being willing to take less for themselves in order to promote the common good.
Who knows what the average Fox viewer will take away from this. But what it looks like Dr. Selterman’s students are proving is that it only takes a small minority to mess things up for everybody.
Here’s the video, via Fox News:
Featured image via screen capture from Fox News