Someone like Ozzy, well he’s always going to be a target the first time he doesn’t win individual immunity. This season, he lasted two individual immunity challenges before the boot. It makes sense, right? Nobody wants to go against Ozzy – the physical competitor, non-strategic player and provider – at the end.
But what about Hali and her perfect hair (as mentioned by a commenter a couple weeks ago)? Why would any of the players not want to see her smiling face at the end? Heck, even Hali asked that question after her elimination.
Today we’re going to apply rational choice theory to the decision to vote off Hali. A relatively simply theory with numerous offshoots of sorts, the main key to rational choice theory is that, in the aggregate, people make decisions that they think are best for them.
This sounds pretty straightforward, right? That’s probably why the theory’s been around forever. First deliberated over in the middle of the 19th century, rational choice began life predominantly associated with economics and propagated by relatively famous economists such as William Stanley Jevons.
As is the case with most non-empirical and not predictive theories, rational choice can be endlessly debated. But, in essence, the theory makes a lot of sense. In economic terms, it posits that we as people make decisions about what we’re going to purchase based on a lot of information that we then prioritize and decide what’s best for us.
For example, let’s really simplify this: Think about the grocery store. When most of us go, we make decisions about brands. For some products, we might weigh the cost, the potential pros and cons and other factors and decide to buy a store brand. The store brand might not taste as good, but it’s cheaper, the difference in taste isn’t that stark and we don’t think people will think of us negatively if we buy said product.
However, there might be other products where we do the same calculus and decide the extra cost is worth it. For me, I’d never buy store brand coffee even if it’s way cheaper because I love coffee too much. Some of us might value fair-trade coffee because of the ethical implications and thus the rational choice is spending more.
The basis of theory is individual: We all make decisions about what’s best for us. Now, obviously, not everyone and not every decision is rational, which is why people can argue about the theory. But, again, this is about the aggregate. Most of us make the decision at the moment that’s best for us.
We saw that in two spots this week on Survivor. To most of us watching Hali go home, we probably wondered why would people eliminate an obvious goat who didn’t seem to strategize much. But think about if you’re the non-Cirie players.
The rational and easy choice might be to all come together as much as possible. If everyone in the game can effectively agree on eliminating one or two people, that could be the rational choice because it makes you safer and gets you further. In a post-merge situation, we often see this with the first vote or two: People are afraid to start actually playing the post-merge game and it’s easier to just vote off a goat.
For Cirie, eliminating Hali was an even more rational move. Faced with the choice of Hali or a potentially ally, of course you boot Hali and her hair.
Overall, when you think about it, the most rational decision in any Survivor elimination is the easiest one, especially post merge, which is why see it so often. Think about the first people eliminated after the merge recently: silent Michelle, annoying Nick, never-going-to-win Kass, Kelly Remington (who I have no recollection of), Julie was going to get the boot if she didn’t quit … the list goes on.
Hardly ever do we see a big player eliminated at the merge. It usually takes a vote or two simply because players want to find their post-merge bearings; that makes the easy vote the rational choice.
And that’s all the theory for this week. We’ll do this again next week. For now, though, here are my new thoughts on the remaining castaways:
And with that, we’ll head in to next week. This season could start becoming a Pagonging, but let’s hope these returnees understand their position in the game and shake things up. Let’s talk in the comments.
Pat Ferrucci started watching Survivor when episode two of Borneo first aired. He's seen every episode since. Besides recapping here, he'll be live-tweeting this season from the Mountain Time Zone. Why? Because nobody cares about the Mountain Time Zone except when they want to ski. Follow him @patferrucci for Survivor stuff and tweets about anything and everything that enters his feeble mind.