Theory and Decision

, Volume 71, Issue 4, pp 519–537 | Cite as

Signaling strength? An analysis of decision making in The Weakest Link

  • Marco A. HaanEmail author
  • Bart Los
  • Yohanes E. Riyanto
Open Access


We analyze contestants’ behavior in the game show “The Weakest Link”. We focus on banking decisions, where a contestant chooses to secure an amount of money for the eventual winner, or to risk it on a general knowledge question. We find that contestants do not use the banking strategy that maximizes total expected prize money. Average earnings could be at least 17% higher. Our results suggest that contestants are not overconfident, but do try to convince other contestants that their ability is higher than it really is, in order to increase chances of winning the prize. We argue that this mechanism may also be applicable to other situations that are of economic interest.


Game show Field experiments Signaling 



The authors thank Martin van Geest for excellent research assistance, Joyce Jacobsen, Peter Kooreman, Bert Schoonbeek, Adriaan Soetevent, Yossi Spiegel, and Linda Toolsema for useful comments, and seminar and conference participants at National University of Singapore, the University of Groningen, the Catholic University Leuven, the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Maastricht University, the NAKE day, the ASSET meeting, and the ESA International Meeting for helpful discussion.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Economics and BusinessUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Division of Economics, School of Humanities and Social SciencesNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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