Archive for January 24th, 2008

Who else watched this insane, inane show? me. myself and I.  Why? because I love watching people.  also, i’m also a sometimes consultant to producers of game television.

Beyond the obvious hook to this show (jerry springer meets deal or no deal), this show is a perfectly crafted behavior experiment.  This thing works on so many levels.

The Set Up

Gameplay is simple.  A set of questions is worth a certain dollar amount.  Answering a set of 6,5,4,3… questions earns you an ever larger amount of money.  Truth is determined by comparing your “live” answers to answers done under a polygraph situation. e.g. You can fail the polygraph without knowing it and then answer the same answer in the live show and not be telling the truth.  or you can attempt to lie or switch your answer from polygraph if you knew you were lying during the lie detector test.

There are 3 friends/family members in the studio often asked for responses.

The host cleverly (perhaps not so cleverly) asks leading questions that frame up the truth question.

The questions get progressively more damaging – the truth could hurt a close relationship, hose a job, lead to distrust, etc. etc.

There’s ambient music with a “heartbeat” and an ominous female MC voice.

The family and friends can end it at any time.

Payout amounts

First 6 questions are worth $10,000

Next 5 are worth $25,000

Behavior Groups

The Studio Audience

The questions early on get the audience going.  Lots of typical white lies, religious and sexual overtones.  Raises the stakes while the money is low.

The Contestant

The first part of the show eases the contestant into the game.  6 questions remove the fear of telling the truth and get you to lose any “real life” risk aversion you may have.

The Television Audience

TV audience is draw immediately in with a quick launch into questions and personality reveals throughout the gameplay.  Lots of questions come early, before the first commercial.  Early questions are very good “conversation starters” for a roomful of people watching on television.

Lots of up close facial shots.  Shots of nervous ticks.  Audio track includes heartbeats.


The money, audience and “ease” of early questions provide positive reinforcement to keep going early, at least through $10,000.

At $25,ooo, contestants claim “i’ve revealed too much to stop.”

Family members want contestants to continue because “they are curious.”  “They want to know.”

$25,000 doesn’t seem to matter much to people. (need more data)

Audience reaction doesn’t matter much to contestant as answers have been given.   However, audience reaction seems to affect the family member.


When will most family members make it stop?  why? how can we measure discomfort?

What types of family members/friends/relationships are most disrupted?

Are the contestants coached to add dramatic pauses and misdirection to their responses? I mean, they already took a polygraph…

how did they screen for contestants?  You need risky people to make this work.  And you need clean cut people that seem like the “truth” could be damaging.

What’s the dollar figure that matters?

Notes and Observations

There is a point/threshold at which this is no longer a “game” for people.  The questions stop being cute or easy or “party” like.  A series of questionable answers may have the same effect.

There are tons of very nervous humor that only comes out when people are asked to explain their answers.

The host raises the stakes a lot.  Increasing the interaction between family and contestant has a very interesting effect.

The “stop” button near the family is just far enough out of reach to put up a physical barrier.

Need to see the ratings on this.

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