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1 SURVIVOR: EXPERIMENTAL ECONOMICS A Two-Treatment Exploration of Strategies to Outwit, Outplay & Outlast Competitors Using Revealed Ability Designed and.

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Presentation on theme: "1 SURVIVOR: EXPERIMENTAL ECONOMICS A Two-Treatment Exploration of Strategies to Outwit, Outplay & Outlast Competitors Using Revealed Ability Designed and."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 SURVIVOR: EXPERIMENTAL ECONOMICS A Two-Treatment Exploration of Strategies to Outwit, Outplay & Outlast Competitors Using Revealed Ability Designed and Analyzed by Kelly Goldsmith, 04/27/2005 Professor Shyam Sunder Experimental Economics, Ph.D. Seminar


3 3 The Structure of the Game: The game of Survivor lasts 39 days Each episode consists of 3 days, thus the game is shown in 13 episodes Within each episode, there is a three day production cycle: Day One: Reward Challenge Day Two: Immunity Challenge Day Three: Tribal Council

4 4 Surviving Phase One and Phase Two: ONE WINNER Day 39 TEN PLAYERS MERGE: INDIVIDUAL PLAY Days 18 - 39 SIXTEEN PLAYERS START: TEAM PLAY Days 1 - 18 PHASE ONE  (First Six Episodes) PHASE TWO  (Remaining Ten Episodes) VS.

5 5 The Bottom Line: You Want to Stay in the Game Payment Schedule: The more episodes you are on, the more money you go home with, this increases somewhat exponentially towards the end of the game 15 Minutes Plus: The longer you are in the game, the greater the odds for future paying engagements and continued fame High Stakes Experiment: “Survivor provides a rare and valuable opportunity to draw inferences that more realistically mirror the complex reality of high stakes political and legal strategies and choices than do the low stakes experiments conducted in academic laboratories” (Moore & Sterns, 2000)

6 6 Explicit Means to Avoid Expulsion IMMUNITY: When an individual (or tribe) wins an immunity challenge she (they) cannot be expelled in the next tribal council ALLIANCES: Players may chose to form informal alliances with one and other to serve as voting blocks in Tribal Council - these can be kept secret or revealed

7 7 Problem with these Means: Exogenous Factors IMMUNITY: All the challenges draw on different skills (ex. Memory, motor skills, creativity), it would be virtually impossible for a participant to feel assured she would always be able to win immunity ALLIANCES: A player has little control over her stability in an alliance – relationships can change suddenly in a game that fosters paranoia (c.p. Empty Core Bargaining)

8 8 My Intuition: Immunity and Alliances are neither predictable nor dependable enough to rely on solely as effective strategy to win the game If you look at past seasons, frequently people with seemingly good strategies and strong positions in their alliances don’t win So what does it take to be the Sole Survivor??

9 9 Past Seasons Disagree with Darwin Q: Could this game simply be Survival of the Fittest? A: NO! If this was the case, the strongest, smartest, most charming players would always be the winners. Past seasons show this is not necessarily so.

10 10 An Endogenous Factor that Might Lead to Victory REVEALED ABILITY

11 11 Definitions: Natural Ability: The sum total of one’s innate abilities that matter in a game Ex. Survivor: Charm, intelligence, stamina, balance, out door know-how, etc. Revealed Ability: The sum of the levels of ability that one chooses to show to others in the game

12 12 My Experiment: Treatment One Participants randomly assigned to teams Natural ability is a fixed number that is randomly assigned so that at all times, both teams have the same combined total of natural ability levels In each period: Participants will reveal levels of ability up to four times, however, each subsequent level of ability must be greater than or equal to its predecessor Revealed ability can never exceed natural ability

13 13 Treatment One: Sample Period Phase One: Team Play PERIOD 1 Natural Ability: Team Assignment : 130Blue Revealed Ability (1)Winning Team: Winning Team Score: Losing Team Score: 100BLUE495492 Phase Two: Individual Play Revealed Ability (2)Loser: Loser Ability Level: Round 1101HEMA170 Revealed Ability (3)Loser: Loser Ability Level: Round 2102SACHIN125 Revealed Ability (4)Loser: Loser Ability Level: Round 3103MIR120 WINNER! Name: FOONG SOONPRIZE WINNINGS:50 TEAM/ABILITY ASSIGNMENTS Period 1 RED1135 Sumon4 2145 Hema8 3155 Eunice1 4165 FoongSoon5 Mir7 BLUE5130 Chris2 6140 Francesco3 7160 Sachin6 8170

14 14 Rules for Winning: Phase One: The team with the highest combined total of revealed abilities is the winning team and will move on to Phase Two Phase Two: The player with the highest level of revealed ability is rejected in each round, the “Survivor” consistently displays the lowest level of revealed ability These rules were based on my observation that most often, in the game, the strongest players are retained (and the weakest cut) in Phase One – to keep the team strong; while the weakest players are retained in Phase Two to minimize the competition in individual challenges

15 15 Ex Ante Strategies: The Game is Played in Phase One Three Potential Player Strategies: 1.Team Player Mentality: Present Thinking, Communalist Mindset 2.Survival of the Mediocre: Forward thinking, Individualist Mindset (Never Reveal More than You Have to) 3.Last but not Least: The Risk Taker Hypothesis: Players will decrease the ability they reveal as Periods progress

16 16 Period One: No Real Strategy Players seem to be randomly revealing an ability that is 20 – 40 “points” less than their Natural Ability We can use this for comparison with later periods RANA FoongSoon100130 Hema150170 Mir120160 Sachin125140 Chris130145 Eunice117135 Francesco100155 Sumon145165 AVG123.375150

17 17 Treatment One: Phase One Almost immediately, players learned that, in Phase Two, the optimal strategy was to ONLY reveal ability equal to the ability they revealed as Revealed Ability (1); thus confirming my intuition that the game would be played in Phase One Because RA (1) was anonymous, people had no incentive not to free ride, hence…

18 18 Results: Hypothesis Confirmed

19 19 Deeper Look: Team Differences

20 20 A Happy Marriage: The Team Player and the Risk Taker In Periods 8 and 9, Chris revealed exceedingly high – this guaranteed his team would make it to Phase 2, and also guaranteed that in Phase 2, Chris would be the first eliminated Chris demonstrated the “Team Player” Strategy Sachin, conversely, revealed exceedingly low in Periods 8 and 9 Sachin demonstrated the “Risk Taker” Strategy Since Sachin and Chris were on the same team in both Periods 8 and 9, Chris’s “hard work” facilitated Sachin’s free-riding victory

21 21 Previous Theoretical Explorations: Moore & Sterns, 2000 “The Law & Economics of Survivor” (unpublished) - Analyzed Survivor using rational choice theories and games: - Theory of Minimum Winning Coalitions: In alliance making, the “simple majority” is the best plan - Empty Core Bargaining: Instability of coalitions when members are able to defect - Iterated and Non-Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma Game: Because the Survivor game has multiple iterations, though defection may be beneficial in one period, you may be punished in the next (c.p. voting in Treatment Two) Summers, 2002 “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast: A Game-Theoretic Analysis of Survivor” (unpublished) – uses game theory to construct a model to determine optimal alliance size

22 22 Related Theoretical Work: Public Goods: - Survivor Game, Treatment One: Are people selfish or cooperative when contributing to public good production? Ex) Consortiums of firms: Same but different In a consortium, players want their individual price to be the highest but their consortium’s over-all price to be the lowest

23 23 Related Theoretical Work: “Public Goods” Ledyard (1995) – Handbook of Experimental Economics - Initial Stages: Subjects contribute between Pareto-efficient level and free-riding level - Contributions decline with repetition - Game theory cannot explain how people make their contribution decisions - Players fall into three categories: 1.Nash Players: Give zero (50%) 2.High stakes Nash/Somewhat Altruistic (40%) 3.Inexplicable Players: Give generously (10%)

24 24 Future Predictions: With the limited number of subjects and Periods studied in Treatment One, it is impossible to predict from the data how, if played repeatedly, the results would differ My intuition is that, in general, an optimal revealed ability would emerge over time, similar to the “Survival of the mediocre” one sees in the TV show However, much like in the game of Survivor, exogenous factors (the revealed ability of others) impact your strategy (ex. Chris/Sachin)

25 25 Limitations of Treatment One: Treatment One had abstracted so far away from the actual game, that participants’ only real strategic move was being made in their decision for RA (1) I wanted to create a version of the game that allowed for more individual decision making and strategy, rather than relying on a formula to determine the winner

26 26 Treatment Two: This Time, it’s Personal The purpose of Treatment Two was to create a game that could be played in the lab, based on Treatment One but incorporating more room for individual strategizing Players were assigned natural abilities and team affiliations that lasted through out the treatment All revealed abilities were made public and kept salient (displayed on over head) Players were allowed to vote people out of the game by name

27 27 Rules for Treatment Two: Phase One: “Positive Sum Game” The team with the highest combined revealed ability wins and does not have to vote someone out; the losing team must eject a member Merge: All remaining team members combine to form one team Phase Two: “Zero Sum Game” The player with the highest revealed ability in a challenge will gain immunity and cannot be evicted at Tribal Council; a player can only get immunity once per game Revealed Ability: Must always be less than or equal to natural ability, and greater than or equal to the first ability revealed in the game (Round 1, Revealed Ability)

28 28 Modified Survivor Game Structure: ONE WINNER FIVE PLAYERS MERGE: INDIVIDUAL PLAY Round 4 - 7 EIGHT PLAYERS START: TEAM PLAY Round 1 - 3 EPISODE ONE: Tribal Challenge: Revealed Ability (1) 75 Only Vote in Tribal Council if your team has LOST Enter the name of the person you would like ejected from your tribe Tribal Council Vote Hema Seven Players Now Remain EPISODE FOUR: Revealed Ability (2) 150 In tribal council, the winner of the individual challenge CAN NOT BE EJECTED Enter the name of the person you would like ejected from your tribe: Tribal Council: Chris Four Players Now Remain EPISODE 7FINAL TRIBAL COUNCIL There will be no challenge, all those who played in Phase Two (the Jury) will vote on who they think should be the winner of the game VOTES 00 0Hema 0Francesco Bova 0Francesco WINNER:FRANCESCO BOVA!!!!! YOU ARE THE ULTIMATE SURVIVOR!

29 29 Hypotheses: Hypothesis One: Phase One: Team Player Mentality Though players know that, in phase two high performers could be a threat, high performers will be retained and weak players expelled to “keep the tribe strong” Hypothesis Two: Phase Two: Survival of the Mediocre Those with the lowest revealed ability who can make it through Phase One without being ejected, will succeed in Phase Two, if they do not increase their revealed ability

30 30 Results: Phase One Phase One: Team Player Mentality -Ep. 1: Blue team loses - Sachin had the lowest revealed ability, his team ejected him -Ep. 2: The Red team sat Sumon out in the challenge (for having the lowest revealed ability in Ep. 1), they then ejected him at Tribal Council -Ep. 3: The Red team loses, Eunice had the lowest revealed ability and was ejected -Hypothesis One was thus confirmed EPISODE ONE BFoongSoon125 Hema150 Mir80 Sachin75 RChris140 Eunice127 Francesco131 Sumon110

31 31 Results: Phase Two A few players revealed low initially It would appear that that starting at “Episode Two” the average revealed ability remained relatively constant, however…

32 32 Phase Two: Revealed Abilities 1 2 3 2 nd Place Winner!

33 33 Survival of the Mediocre: Confirmed? Many of the decisions made for whom to kick off in Phase Two seemed to operate on idiosyncratic preferences, rather than strategies Hypothesis 2 was not confirmed – high revealers were not targeted …However, a very mediocre player did win…

34 34 Conclusion: Treatment One: - Hypothesis One was confirmed: players did decrease revealed ability as periods progressed - Players displayed different strategies for playing the game Treatment Two: - Hypothesis One was confirmed: in Phase One low revealers were ejected - Hypothesis Two not confirmed: “Survivor of the Mediocre” did seem to be replicated, but in a a means not predicted. -Personal preference seemed to be the dominant strategy – “You gotta make them like you or they’ll vote you off” (Sue Hawk, Survivor: Borneo)

35 35 Important Extensions: The notion of the ability we reveal vs. the ability we possess is not unique to the game of Survivor – what has made the show so popular is that the audience finds relevance to “real life” situations The tension created in situations where one is attempting to reveal ability, or otherwise contribute, optimally can be seen in situations from public good games to office politics Extensions have also been drawn to government and the formation of political coalitions (Moore & Sterns, 2000)

36 36 THANK YOU! (the tribe has spoken.)

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