All Fours

A grad student friend recently gave a talk that was reviewed by faculty on a 1-5 scale. One faculty member gave her a 4 in every category. The problem was, the best score was 1. That strikes me as kind of strange.

If the best score were 5 it would make perfect sense. When 5 is the best, 4s across the board is a highly typical scoring strategy. It means the scorer thought the talk was pretty good, but wasn’t blown away, and couldn’t be bothered to think hard about each category. A lot of people fulfill their duties that way.

But for most people, giving a below average score in this kind of context feels rude or aggressive, so they won’t do it unless they’re angry, upset, or otherwise emotionally engaged in a negative way.

The same score for every category implies emotional detachment; but below average scores implies (negative) emotional engagement. I suspect the scorer either was confused about the scoring system, or is a sociopath.

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