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Game Theory and Grades

In: Social Issues

Submitted By anindya42
Words 480
Pages 2
Keep running to stay at the same place…
The GPA race is as thrilling as GTA! Well, not quite. But it does give rise to interesting situations and diverse emotions. After all, in the current scheme of things, grading is relative. So all that matters is where you stand relative to your classmates.
Intuitively it might seem that the best way to handle this in the interest of the overall batch is to ensure that no one studies for the exams. However, can each student trust the others not to study? What if someone breaks the “agreed code” and studies secretly? Given the two situations that the others might study or may not study, it might seem to a random student that studying is the safer strategy. At least he won’t be left stranded at the lower end of the GPA spectrum and well, there is this chance of actually doing well in the exams! Now everyone might think this way and end up studying thereby eliminating any relative advantage of studying that any one might have. What we have is Prisoners’ Dilemma in the academic setting in a new multi-player avatar.
Can “collusion” be implemented to solve the problems arising out of, let me dare term it – Students’ Dilemma? The problems are many? How to monitor effort? How to design a “punishment” for detractors to deter them from “cheating” (which ironically, in this context means studying!)? How to ensure that a student doesn’t get mistakenly punished for doing well in the exam by chance or by sheer ability? And the questions continue…
Consider a hypothetical scenario where students to agree to spend a specific and significant amount of time in the common area everyday so everyone watches over the other. Students can choose to watch movies or pay games and everyone gets to watch what the others are doing. This will leave a reduced time for any prospective “cheater” to study extra in his/her own time. Ideally the system should be monitored by a third party, but what option do we have in this case? The teachers supervising students to ensure they don’t study enough? This doesn’t seem to be a feasible idea.
Social ostracism can be a potential punishment, but the Chatur Ramalingams of the world wouldn’t care. And if one person “cheats” or defects this way, then others also have an increased incentive to study.
It seems that we are stuck with the best response strategy of put in significant efforts in studying after all. And anyway, if we agree on studying being a means to learning and not merely grades then the equilibrium where everyone ends up studying a lot, isn’t at all undesirable.
So, get back to your books.
As Groucho Marx said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”…...

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