“Over the course of many years of teaching, i’ve noticed that there typically seems to be a rash of deaths among students’ relatives at the end of the semester, and it happens mostly in the week before final exams and before papers are due. In an average semester, about 10 percent of my students come to me asking for an extension because someone has died – usually a grandmother. Of course I find it very sad and am always ready to sympathize with my students and give them more time to complete their assignments. But the question remains; what is it about the weeks before finals that is so dangerous to students’ relatives?
Most professors encounter the same puzzling phenomenon and I’ll guess that we have come to suspect some inks of causal relationship between exams and sudden deaths among grandmothers. in fact, one intrepid researcher has successfully proven it. After collecting data over several years, Mike Adams (a professor of biology at Eastern Connecticut State University) has shown that grandmothers are ten times more likely to die before a midterm and nineteen times more likely to die before a final exam. Moreover, grandmothers of students who aren’t doing so well in class are at even higher risk – students who are failing are fifty times more likely to lose a grandmother compared with non failing student.
In a paper exploring this sad connection, Adams speculates that the phenomenon is due to intrafamilial dynamics, which is to say, students’ grandmothers care so much about their grandchildren that they worry themselves to death over the outcome of exams. This would indeed explain why fatalities occur more frequently as the stakes rise, especially in cases where a student’s academic future is in peril. With this finding in mind, it is rather clear that from a public policy perspective, grandmothers – particularly those of failing students – should be closely monitored for signs of ill health during the weeks before and during finals. Another recommendation is that their grandchildren, again particularly the ones who are not doing well in class, should not tell their grandmothers anything about the timing of the exams or how they are performing in class.”
Extract from ‘The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty; By Dan Ariely.