Well, in theory - Pat Ferrucci's recaps

How self-perception took down the Brains


Have we seen an episode more focused on egos?


I think the show would have been better if it revolved around Eggos, but, alas, we all sat through 44 or so minutes featuring people telling us how awesome they are compared to everyone in the world.


Well, actually, I take that back. Peter might think he’s the smartest and most awesomest dude to ever walk the planet, but this season’s resident ass, Kyle/Jason, actually only thinks he’s “possibly” one of the best bounty hunters in Southeast Michigan. You know, I’m not so knowledgeable about the world of bounty hunting (besides that dude who belongs in Winger videos), amazingly, but I feel like you need to take more pride in your work, Kyle/Jason.


With all that said, are you ready to talk theory with possibly one of the best True Dork Times Survivor recappers located in central Colorado? OK, let’s do that.


Mini boss


So we know the whole episode, regardless of the tribe shown, really went deep into how many castaways think they’re, well, God’s gift to reality television or something. But, of course, this hubris truly came into focus over on the Brain tribe, where Peter, especially, and Liz (sob, winner pick, sob) spent what seemed like 1,235 minutes telling us how smart, beautiful and truly amazing they are compared to us mere mortals. Of course, producers labeling them as brains probably didn’t help.

I think, though, the best theory to utilize this week when trying to understand what went down (besides, you know, two people without a damn clue about the people they’re playing with), is another one from psychology: self-perception theory.


Most theories about behavior argue that people’s behavior comes from their attitudes or beliefs. So, for example, if I don’t think the environment is something to worry about (attitude), I may go buy a car that looks absolutely ridiculous and gets like one mile per gallon (behavior). But self-perception theory posits the opposite: We behave first and then adjust our attitudes and beliefs accordingly. It’s kind of like last week’s cognitive dissonance theory, but different in that self-perception theory is really all about the self and not necessarily about avoiding counter narratives. Does this make sense? Let’s tease it out a little more.


Developed by Daryl Bem, a quasi-retired psychology professor at Cornell University in upstate New York, self-perception theory basically argues that we behave first, then come up with our attitudes. Let me give you an example of an experiment conducted more than three decades ago by a couple of psychologists in Canada. I like this one because, I think, it explains the theory well. So, these two researchers gave two different groups of subjects a survey of sorts about their environmental beliefs. Now, it’s pretty complicated, but let’s only discuss the nuts and bolts.


Before the experiment, they tested both groups’ feelings about the environment and both groups had the same feelings. Then, the researchers asked one group, for example, if they’ve ever recycled. They asked the other group if they always recycled. Notice the tiny difference in wording.


After each group took the experiment, the group asked if they’ve ever recycled labeled themselves as more environmentally friendly. Why? Because the question made them realize their behavior was environmentally friendly. Almost everyone has recycled something. The other group, though, answered negatively because, like most people, they didn’t recycle everything. Again, behavior before attitude.


On the brains tribe, we saw four people (Neal, Aubry, Debbie and Joseph) who may have been a little odd (Debbie) or mean (Joe) in some cases, but we never saw them dismiss their fellow castaways as bad game players. In the little bits we were shown in previous weeks and, especially, this week, we saw them all understand that everyone was smart and must be treated as such in the game. The treated everyone as decent game players (behavior) and they formed that opinion (attitude).


More bosses


Now Peter and Liz, on the other hand, gave us confessional after confessional telling us, implicitly and explicitly, that they were better game players than everyone else and smarter and more good looking (that part wasn’t delusional) and on and on and on (attitude). Where did that attitude come from? Well, according to self-perception theory, their behavior. And we saw this over and over again. Peter’s conversations and, especially, Liz’s interactions with fellow castaways last night were so condescending. They clearly acted like they were better than the other four and then, of course, believed it.


And this left my winner pick, poor poor Liz, with a snuffed torch. If only I could have passed her some of the reams of quantitative data from social psychology experiments that tell us when you think you’re smarter than people, you often overlook them. Social cues are huge. Liz and Peter, well, they don’t notice them well, I think. And for Liz, maybe it’s because, as she told us, she spends a lot of energy shutting down her emotions.


That could also be linked to self-perception theory. Liz works with quantitative data (behavior) so she’s probably going to form opinions that numbers don’t lie, but emotions do (attitudes). And she ignored, I’m sure, many social, emotional cues that would have told her the other four didn’t particularly want to be led by her and Peter. And now Liz is gone.


Well, that’s it for theory and recapping today. But before we say our goodbyes, let’s, as always, take a look at the remaining tribe members (until, if the previews are truthful, they all die next week) and see how they’re looking right now:  


Brains – Chan Loh



  • Peter B. – Man, can I fluctuate more on a person? Before the season, I thought Peter came across as an arrogant, um, butt. But I warmed up to him over the first two episodes. He became a good narrator for his tribe and seemed to be communicating with everyone well. Dumb me. Clearly my first assessment worked best. I don’t know where Peter goes from here, but let’s just say I have a hunch it ain’t going end with a check for $1 million.  


  • Debbie W. – Give this crazy lady credit. She took control of her tribe this week and really played the best of anyone. Raise your hand if you thought, last week, Debbie would put a hell of a plan together to blindside a fellow tribe member. OK, you guys with your hands up? You’re liars. Debbie might be trying oh too hard for airtime, but she’s also playing the game. Good stuff.


  • Joseph D. – Joe comes across like the grandfather of the tribe. And I don’t mean the grandfather who dotes on his grandchildren and sneaks them sips of beer like my grandfathers. I mean the grandfather who is so stuck in his ways, he doesn’t quite understand or give a poop that nobody’s going to like him for much longer.


  • Aubry B. – Once again, even in an episode where Brains would head to tribal, we saw very little of Aubry. If she makes the actual merge, Aubry could end up lasting for quite a while. And, remember, she’s pretty good in challenges too.  


  • Neal G. – Neal’s arrogance came across a little this week, but I still think he’s looking pretty good right now. I’m really not sure what to think about the ice cream man. It seemed to me like Liz and Peter were focused too strongly on eliminating Neal because they didn’t trust him. My parents always told me never to trust the ice cream man. But the one in my neighborhood was pretty creepy. Neal seems like a good guy, although his pants are a bit creepy …


Beauty – Gondol



  • Nick M. – I was pretty hard on Nick before the season because, you know, he seemed intent on coming across as a huge ass. Well, it seems like everyone else on his tribe agrees with that assessment … and they’ve met Nick.


  • Caleb R. – I’m all in on Caleb right now. He’s going to be a huge target at some point, but he’s playing a hell of a game right now and all that reputation he got from Big Brother? I don’t get it yet.


  • Julia S. – Another good episode for the all-woman alliance of Beauty.  I mean, honestly, considering they’re killing it at challenges and Julia, Michele and Anna seem to be totally in control, we can say with pretty good certainty these three are playing the best right now, right?


  • Michele F. – Michele is becoming the new Purple Kelly. Sorry Michele.


  • Tai T. – Let’s hope Tai isn’t pulled from the game next week. I have a bad feeling and it would make me cry. I don’t want to cry. Please don’t make me cry. What have I ever done to you, Survivor producers? Don’t make me cry, OK?


  • Anna K. – Anna seems to be leading the three-woman alliance and, in the process, just dominating the early game of Kaoh Rong. Let’s see if she can keep it up. It’ll be interesting to see if we get a tribe shakeup next week. I would have said yes before this episode, but now I’m thinking it might not happen till episode five.


Brawn – To Tang



  • Scot P. – A pretty good week for Scot. Well, at least on the show. In real life, I saw a story about him on ESPN, where he basically said that while he made $38 million during his playing career, you know, taxes took about half of that and then his agent got 3% and he has to live on, you know, like $12 million for the rest of his life, so it’s clear why he doesn’t have much left. Um, well, read/listen to the story and make your own judgments.


  • Kyle/Jason – Oh, Kyle/Jason. You still seem like a horrible human. Now you have an idol, though. That’s it.


  • Alecia H. – You know, I want to like Alecia, mostly because she’s the underdog who keeps being bullied and everything else. But then she opens her mouth and, well, I’m not sure all that much is going on upstairs. She simply says and does a lot of things that aren’t very smart. I’m sure she’s great and smart outside of the game and maybe she didn’t see much of Survivor before going on the show, but it’s hard to root for her when she speaks.


  • Cydney G. – Since Cydney is the last tribe member to talk about, I’ll end this column with a question: Does anyone think she made many good moves this episode? I’m asking because I can’t decide my opinion. Should she have told Scot and Kyle/Jason as much as she did? Should she have done more to get the idol herself? Was she really going to align with Alecia? I honestly don’t know the answer to any of those questions. What do you guys think?


Let’s talk in the comments about Cydney but, also, what do you guys think of the season so far? Are we in for a good one or a bad one or something in the middle? OK, have a good week.


Pat Ferrucci Survivor 31 recapsPat 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.