Yesterday, my colleague Matt Pianalto and I were having a brief discussion in the hallway about grading. Something I've wondered about in the past, and which we discussed, is whether a particular psychological cause sometimes contributes to grade inflation.
Those of us who become professors value academic excellence, and have worked hard to achieve it. Presumably, we achieved it as undergrads to some degree, and then to a greater degree as graduate students. I recall in graduate school being told by a grad student working on her dissertation that a B+ in grad school is like a C or D at the undergraduate level. I was driven to get an A in each of my courses, because, rightly or wrongly, I saw this as a necessary but not sufficient condition for future academic employment.
How does this relate to grade inflation? I would suggest that some of us project our own psychology onto our undergraduate students. For the most part, I don't have much difficulty giving a B, but I do find it difficult at times to give a student a C or lower, because getting such a grade would have been hard for me to handle as a student. Yet many students are happy with a C, because they don't have the same approach to their education that we did. This is just a bit of armchair psychology, I suppose, but it is worth thinking about, because I suspect that for myself and some others, it is an occasional cause of grade inflation.