Context effect in Britain’s Got Talent?

June 13, 2009 BY danariely

I got this suggestion from Thomas Aedy in Eton College in the UK:
Dear Dan,

The final for Britain’s Got Talent was on Saturday June 30th and this final was very interesting because it involved 3 choices, 2 of which were very similar, and 1 of which was different. In our show, viewers have to vote in by telephone on the night of the show for a winner to be decided, and there was some shock when the favorite (Susan Boyle – a singer) didn’t win, and lost out to one of two dance groups (Diversity were the winners, Flawless were the other dance group) – whilst the dance group were very good, most people thought that the singer would edge win.

I think this is a case of relativism:

Option A – Singer – Susan Boyle who was generally regarded (before the final) as the favorite contender for the win

Option B – Dance group – Diverstiy

*   Probably the better of the two dance groups – more creativity and flair, and possibly more entertaining
*   That is largely my view, although their victory in the competition would suggest that they were the better of the two dance groups

Option B’ – Dance group – Flawless

*   Also a very talented dance group, but more straightforward dancing – not very many surprises from them
*   We could view them as the ‘dud’ choice of the two (although this is somewhat harsh)

General points

*   Frankly impossible to judge who were the best of all three – all of them were very talented, but it is impossible for most viewers to try and think whether Option B was better than Option A (comparing singing and dancing)
*   However, on the night, it is fair to say that Option B was better than Option B’
*   Thus whilst most found it impossible to establish who was better of A and B – it was clear that B was better than B’, and this made it easier to select an overall winner (which would be Option B)

In my mind this could be seen as an example of relativism

Very best wishes,

Thomas Aedy

PS: YouTube videos of the 3 acts if you’re interested.

Option A (singer) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2xiAQCTy2E

Option B (dance) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJIz8BgRQc0

Option B’ (dance) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY9I6pxnVpM


I did not watch this show — but I find the idea plausible and interesting.