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Survivor: Three Principles of Economics Lessons as Taught by a Reality Television Show

14 Pages Posted: 8 May 2017  

Dean S. Karlan

Yale University; Innovations for Poverty Action; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: May 2017

Abstract

The reality television show Survivor has been a ratings success on CBS for over 16 years. In the show, 16 strangers are marooned in a remote location, required to compete in physical and mental challenges, and periodically vote to eliminate players from the game. The last person remaining wins one million dollars. I use this popular television show to demonstrate three important lessons from principles of microeconomics: (a) for individual decision-making, concepts like pride and honor may belong in the utility function, alongside more classical components such as consumption of goods and services, (b) thinking through how others will respond to your action is critical for good economic and strategic thinking, and (c) repeated interaction can help collusive behavior hold.

Keywords: Behavioral economics, Game theory, preferences, Survivor

JEL Classification: A22, C70, C73, D10, D11

Suggested Citation

Karlan, Dean S., Survivor: Three Principles of Economics Lessons as Taught by a Reality Television Show (May 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2964838

Dean Karlan (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, CT 06520-8269
United States

Innovations for Poverty Action ( email )

1731 Connecticut Ave, 4th floor
New Haven, CT 20009
United States

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab ( email )

E60-246
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

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