My Rational Expectations are Irrational…

Just over a year ago this blog started off with a complaint about how students get so upset about numeric grades. (Hard to believe it was a year and a surprisingly large number of posts ago). Recently a column in the New York Times offered an explanation and a solution of sorts.

The column argues that there are lots of irrelevant things that color our perception of a fair deal, and so a lot of rational economics is based on a false premise.  The example the author, Richard Thaler, provided, however, is what is of interest here.  He had an exam with an average score of 72 and students were upset [he should see the response with an average of 60]. His solution was to simply make the next exam have a maximum score of 137: the average score of 96 represented a lower percentage average (70%) but the students were happy with the exam.

You see, this is a strategy GG simple would not have come up with, as he thinks that it would have been the percentage in any case that would matter. It is a case of an instructor with a strong quantitative background and an expectation of rational thought encountering others lacking those qualities.

It might be awhile before GG gets to test out this concept, but one wonders if that would hold for a whole semester or if the students would start to realize that a 90 was a low C.  What this does remind us all of is that sometimes what we think is in a message is not what is heard at the other end. This is always an important point in giving and receiving criticism.

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One response to “My Rational Expectations are Irrational…”

  1. Miksha says :

    This is such an interesting point: “a case of an instructor with a strong quantitative background and an expectation of rational thought encountering others lacking those qualities.” Says much about math illiteracy and critical thinking.
    I went back and re-read your first blog posting, from May 6, 2014. Congratulations on a year of blogging dangerously. You have produced a lot of thoughtful and provocative pieces!

    Like

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