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Distortion of Perception: A Stealthy GPA Killer

How some of your classmates are "hallucinating" away their GPAs, and how you can avoid this trap!

Photo showing a prisoner who is presumably a "classroom conformist"
Have you ever found yourself in a class where everyone continuously bashed the Professor the whole time?  

Maybe as you sat there, diligently following along, you thought to yourself something like

Okay, so this guy's not the best teacher ever, but he's not all THAT bad!

Perhaps on Rate My Professors, the prof had mostly bad reviews, so you went in expecting the worse only to find...

...overtime you actually came to really like him or her! 

One explanation is that your professor was actually a pretty bad Teacher, and that you just happened to do well anyway!

While this is certainly plausible, I want to argue that there was something else at play...

...namely, distortion of perception!

You mean, my classmates were HALLUCINATING about how bad the prof was?

Yes! That's exactly what may have been happening.

Keep reading and I'll explain why!

Group Conformity & the Asch Paradigm

Those of you who are psychology majors or have taken a basic psychology class will instantly recognize the pairs of cards shown below.

Polish gestalt psychologist Dr. Solomon Asch used a pair of cards just like this in his now famous psychology experiments on group conformity conducted in the 1950s.

The unlabeled line on the first card is identical in length to one of the lines on the second card: 

Do you think it matches line A, B, or C?

Hopefully it's obvious to you that the unlabeled line matches line C. 

Now imagine you were in a group and were asked to answer this same question. 

If everyone in the group who answered before you said the unlabeled line matched line A, what would you do?

Would you go against the group and say you think it matches line C?

Or would you conform to the group and give the same answer as everyone else, even if it's not what you really believe?

This is essentially what Asch's experiments were all about: having actors give a false answer to the line matching question, and seeing how a lone participant who was not an actor would respond.

Of course, we'd all like to believe there's no way we would've ever caved to the pressure of the group if we had actually been experiment participants, right?

Not so fast!

What Asch found was that in the vast majority of cases, the lone participant actually gave the same answer as everyone else, even when it went against their own judgement! 

I highly recommend watching this short video below, which explains Asch's work a lot better than I can!

It's an older video, but still very informative and entertaining.

The Distortion of Perception

The most fascinating finding here is that some of the lone participants experienced what Asch called "distortion of perception." 

These lone participants actually lost faith in their own beliefs, and rationalized that the group must have been right!

Essentially, they hallucinated that the two lines, which didn't match, matched because the majority said it was true! 

This finding demonstrates that group influence can literally cause us to experience delusions that don't match real life!

So was my professor actually terrible or were my classmates just "hallucinating"?

While there's never really a clear-cut way to tell for sure, if you can answer yes to the following two questions, there's a pretty good chance they were "hallucinating":

1. Was everyone in unanimous agreement that the professor sucked, or was there a small group who disagreed?

If at least some other peoples besides you also thought the professor was okay, then there's a good chance the hatred wasn't fully deserved.

2. How did the people who were getting As feel about the teacher?

This question is crucial because the way the students who are doing well feel about the professor is usually the most telling.

Think about it:

If someone is happy with their grade, what's their motivation to tear the professor down?

I've heard many C students blame their grade on their professor...

...but I've never heard an A student blame their grade on the professor!

If the top performing students were highly critical of the professor, it's much more plausible to think that the teacher was actually a bad teacher than if just the students with the poor grades were highly critical.

The Takeaway

If you ever hear your peers say things like

This professor only gives Cs!

This professor fails everyone!

There's something wrong with the professor because EVERYONE has a bad grade!

It can only mean 1 of 2 things:

1. You're stuck in a class with the world's worst professor


2. You're stuck in a class where most people are falling in line behind dysfunctional and self-destructive beliefs

Either way, like I said before in my post Banned From Reddit College: Is Trustworthy?, it doesn't really matter how bad the professor is.

Your grade is ultimately your responsibility, and you're the one who will face the consequences, not your classmates!

So what are you going to do?

Are you going to refuse to believe the hype, focus on the positive, and come out with a good grade you can be proud of?

Or are you going to fall in line, conform to mediocrity, and play the blame game?

The choice is yours, but unfortunately, just because you make the choice to avoid distorted thinking, it doesn't guarantee you'll succeed.

There are no guarantees in life!

However, if you spend all your time listening to the cynics, I can almost guarantee you're going to get the same grade as them...

...and you probably won't like it!

Conformity isn't always a bad thing. In fact, it can be a very good thing. Since we all do it, why not conform with over 1,000 other followers and join our email list? 😉 You'll get tips, tricks, secrets, and the latest news!😀

This post first appeared on Test Prep Champions, please read the originial post: here

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Distortion of Perception: A Stealthy GPA Killer


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