Race to the Grave

imagesWe call it a rat race. Wikipedia describes a rat race as ” an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel.” Beyond this futile pursuit is another subliminal race – the desire to be better than the next one. Just wanting to be with the Jones or better than the Jones provides an intense urge to make “self” the focal point of life. Striving to excel is great. But there are negative consequences when the desire turns into obsession. To some, this is how humanity thrives – the fittest survives. To others, this is the death of humanity. Dylan Selterman, a lecturer in the psychology department at the University of Maryland devised this simple challenge to a class.

IMAGINE you’re a student and your teacher poses this challenge to the entire class:

 With the herd ... Students are asked to think of themselves or think of the greater good. Source: News Limited

With the herd … Students are asked to think of themselves or think of the greater good. Source: News Limited

You can each earn some extra credit on your term paper. You get to choose whether you want two points added to your grade, or six points. But there’s a catch: if more than 10% of the class selects six points, then no one gets any points. All selections are anonymous, and the course grades are not curved.

I pose this exact challenge to students each semester in my social psychology course at the University of Maryland. This summer, one of my students happened to tweet about it, and his reaction went viral. This puzzle has resonated with millions of people around the globe — in the past week I’ve gotten responses from people in Poland, Spain, Italy, Croatia, New Zealand, and Paraguay, to name a few.

This exercise impels students to consider how their actions affect others, and vice versa. I’ve been giving it to students since 2008, and only one class has successfully mastered the challenge. In all other classes, more than 10 per cent chose six points. Students’ temptation to reach for more points is very strong, and they often express exasperation when things don’t go their way. Last semester after I announced the results, one student threw up her hands and emphatically said, “If only everyone chose two points, we all would have gotten the points!”

Read the entire article here.

James 2:8
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:


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