University of Maryland psychology lecturer Dylan Selterman first started giving his students a mind-bending extra credit question on their final exam in 2008. So far, only one class has gotten the extra credit.
The question went viral after it was tweeted by University of Maryland junior Shahin Rafikian early this month, getting over 6,000 retweets by July 15.
The prompt reads:
"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. Your responses will be anonymous to the rest of the class, only I will see the responses.
Selterman told BuzzFeed News the purpose of the question is to reinforce social psychology concepts like "tragedy of the commons" and "the prisoner's dilemma."
Essentially, the exercise is a hands-on way to see what happens when individuals ignore what's best for a group and selfishly act in their own best interest, and to show how outcomes depend on the actions of others.
The professor has no idea how just one group managed to crack the question, but said it's probably an "outlier."
"Some students lament the degree of selfishness amongst their peers, while other students (bravely, in my opinion) openly admit to selecting six points," Selterman said.
Recently, the question, which Selterman borrowed from a teacher at Johns Hopkins University and said is commonly used by his colleagues, began to spur a massive online debate.
"In the past two days, it has turned into a huge philosophical decision-making process among so many people," Rafikian, who chose the two-point option, told the Baltimore Sun, adding that many of the responses he got told him to choose six points.
But it didn't matter either way: More than 10% of students chose the higher option, leaving everyone without extra credit.