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