Students = lemmings?

Apparently students are lemmings:

But a new study by a trio of international researchers finds that college undergraduates let their peers influence their choice of major, often leading them into careers that were not best suited to their skills — and ultimately diminished their income… if the study’s results hold up, students might be encouraged to think for themselves.

The whole thing seems a little suspect to me, and I’m not sure it really generalizes to the US. They studied business students at an Italian university with two choices only (business or economics) and then had a number of group divisions like “ability driven” and “peer driven” to divide them. It just sounds like way too many variables to control for.

However, reading the article reminded me of the game Lemmings, which was awesome in that early 90s way…


7 thoughts on “Students = lemmings?

  1. Choice of only two majors? Lame study.

    There are actually people in my dept who do studies like this, but not necessarily on college major. But modeling social systems and how, say, the social connections students have impact their achievement, or the connections a teacher has impacts their adoption of reform – or even how connections among professors and lab techs at Stanford affects who gets patents. These all tend to be far more complicated than “Having friends who make choice X makes you more likely to make choice X.”

    • I think those studies may be a bit easier to make conclusions about though. Here it seems like a rather general conclusion to be drawing from the example given.

      I think my biggest beef with it is that the study was on an Italian business school with two majors. Given that colleges are structured so differently from country to country, I wonder how much the structure of the system influenced the outcomes.

  2. Way *too* many variables to control for, even!

    (It’s been awhile since I grammar fairied your blog. And yes, I’ve decided that’s a verb.)

  3. Wait a moment. Your post seems to imply that the “lemming” has a meaning that predates the computer game. Am I missing something?

  4. Wow, this reminds me of home. Like the MBA programme at one of Pakistan’s top-rated “universities”, the Institute of Business Administration. While a good school in many ways, it’s lacking in that it offers you the exciting choices of “Finance” or “Marketing” as a major during your MBA. The end. Nothing else.

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