Doggone it. I was all set to write a nice little column about in-group/out-group bias, about how Libby and Morgan allied simply because of their Catholic upbringings. You could see, through their interactions, the power that shared bonds hold amongst people. These two didn’t know each other, presumably had no idea about their beliefs within their faith and didn’t really know the devoutness of the other. But, yet, that bond looked strong.
Then it didn’t.
And instead of writing a fun little column on in-groups and out-groups, I watched another member of my fantasy team walk out of the game. As of now, I’m down to Laurel and only Laurel. Yeah, I’m probably not winning anything.
But this is not the time and place to talk about what I wished happened, but rather we’re here for the theory. So, let’s get to the theory, OK?
Today we’re going to talk about attribution theory, a commonly used framework in psychology. Developed by Austrian-American scholar Fritz Heider, who spent his most influential times as a professor at the University of Kansas, attribution theory is an individual-level model that looks at how people explain the causes of action. Basically, when using this theory, researchers look to how people explain behavior. People often feel the need to explicate what is happening around them when those happenings are surprising. There are two types of attribution: internal and external. In external attribution, we often blame behaviors on outside forces, not us. The opposite is true in internal attribution.
This is an admittedly simplistic articulation of a deceptively complicated theory, but in journalism studies, we often utilize attribution theory when trying to understand how journalists decide what are appropriate and inappropriate actions within the industry. For example, after the Jayson Blair scandal, some researchers analyzed how journalists wrote about the scandal to understand, very generally, what they thought was right and wrong. Essentially, the theory lets us see how journalists blame themselves and the system they exist within for industry-level surprises.
Thinking of this week’s episode, I think we can use attribution to make sense of what James, Libby, Donathan and Laurel did. To me, it looked like James, Donathan and Laurel were all on board with ditching Morgan. But Libby was not. So how does she convince herself to vote off Morgan?
First, we saw Libby and Morgan bonding over a very general thing: religion. What I mean by that is we know, through surveys, the vast majority of Americans self-identify as religious, but we also know that “religion” means different things to different people. Yet, for Libby, the same religion meant a lot. My guess is that means Libby is relatively devout, but we have no idea about Morgan. So, internally, Libby clearly wanted to vote off Angela, someone she could stereotype easily because she barely knew her.
So how does Libby rationalize voting off Morgan? No doubt, this coming week, we’ll see a confessional where Libby talks about doing what the group wanted. Essentially, in Survivor and life, people can rationalize some behaviors that, deep down, they did not want to enact, by blaming it on the situation they were in and the other people involved. I have no doubt this is what Libby did and how she’ll explain her actions next week.
Enough theory, though. Let’s get to a look at the remaining castaways. But, keep in mind, as I mention in these comments, I think we know less castaways after 180 minutes than I can remember. I honestly know about half these folks.
That’s it on this end. Let’s all hope this season continues impressing.
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.