This week, it’s time to get biblical. No, we’re not going to talk about god and things of that sort. Or maybe we are. Well, no, unless you think Patrick is like a god.
We know that Lauren sure didn’t Patrick was a god. She just hates anything with red hair. And let’s be honest: Her insistence on talking about Patrick’s hair color seemed borderline creepy and without a doubt very odd.
But this isn’t the space to talk about Lauren’s proclivities. It’s also not the space for an explication of the dimensions of redheadedness. This space right here is for theory and that’s how we’ll be biblical.
In prior seasons, we talked about the theory of cumulative advantage, a sociological theory coined by Robert K. Merton, a theory I’ve actually applied once to explain how age matters in journalism. Sometimes scholars interpret Merton’s theory in a slightly different manner and call it “The Matthew Effect.” And, yes, the Matthew reference comes directly from the Gospel of Matthew.
Let’s back up for a second. Recently, noted author and pop theorist Malcolm Gladwell published a book called Outliers: The Story of Success. In that tome, Gladwell uses anecdotal evidence of folks like Mozart or Bill Gates to argue that outliers – or people different from other members of similar groups – can earn success more easily than people who think inside the box. And, in the media, we hear a lot about outliers, so this all sounds like a good point by Gladwell. However, research – with actual empirical data – shows us this is actually fiction: People who don’t rock the boat and conform to existing norms do much better in general.
And this is basically the Matthew Effect. In the Gospel of Matthew, there is a line that says, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Merton uses that line to explain his theory: That people who already have a lot are more likely to gain more (and vice versa). So rather than outliers, it’s the opposite folks – the people living inside the box – that are more likely to succeed.
We see that all the time in Survivor. And think about Patrick: He talked way too much, openly looked for the idol and acted somewhat obnoxiously around camp. None of these things directly made him a negative for his tribe. But they all made him different. He did not subscribe to the norms of the game. Think about it: We know everyone looks for the idol, but they do it carefully and without being obvious. Patrick acted like an outlier, doing it obviously. That made him a target for something negative, and did not set him up for success.
That’s key in the game of Survivor. When you think about people who win the game, they almost always do it in a way that’s been done before. In reality, Richard Hatch gave us a template to win the game; he provided norms for others to follow. Occasionally, we’ll see new styles of playing that end up being successful. But, I would argue, even when that happens, there are obvious reasons. For example, Tony played and won Survivor using a very different tact than we’d previously seen, but he harnessed the power of the Super Idol™, which made his style more protected.
For Patrick, the Matthew Effect became his downfall. He tried to do things differently and act in way that usually does not deliver successes. And, in his case, it didn’t result in success. If he acted more in a manner that typically results in success in the game – as less of an outlier – I would bet Lauren would be back to her illustrious softball career right now.
OK, so now it’s time to take an individual look at the remaining castaways. With a tribe swap, all of this could change, but here we go:
All right then, let’s call it a column. I’m hoping the tribe swap helps get this season moving a little more swiftly. I liked this episode, but the season as a whole is still feeling a little flat to me. A good tribe swap might be all I need. 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.