A few weeks ago, during the episode when our beloved Liz got the boot, Peter went out and delivered some weird soliloquy during tribal council about him and Liz being smart, attractive, having great smiles, having tiny toes, eating tangerines and so much more. I might have added a couple of those descriptions, but you remember the scene: Peter and Liz were both smart and attractive.
What I’ve learned writing these columns the last couple seasons is that the beginning of the season is harder than the latter half. Why? Well, so many vote-offs are pretty self-explanatory. They just make sense. Voting Peter off? From what we’ve seen on the show, it just had to happen. Therefore, it’s kind of tough sometimes to apply theory. I mean, you might think because I always come up with some weird sounding theory that there really is something called Vote off the Annoying, Arrogant Ass Theory. Alas, there’s not. But remember what I wrote about three sentences ago about attractive?
You see, Peter called himself attractive and I’m going to tell you he isn’t. And I don’t mean attractive in terms of looks (I make no judgment about him in those regards, but with Liz …). You see, we’re going to apply reward theory of attraction today.
Coined only in 2004 by social psychologist Elliot Aronson, a professor emeritus at the University of California-Santa Cruz (although many academics studied the same phenomena with different names in the years prior), this is a pretty straightforward and easily applicable theory. You see, reward theory of attraction basically argues that people are more likely to like and become friends with people whose behavior they find rewarding to themselves.
Pretty simple, right? I mean, it’s common sense that I’m going to be friends or more with folks whose behavior makes me happy. But, when you think about Survivor or workplaces, it’s not always so easy to accomplish this. And I think this situation with Peter and Aubry illustrates this really well.
Joe and Aubry clearly haven’t liked Peter since almost the beginning of the season. But last week, they voted with him because they needed the number. We’ve seen this too many times to count on Survivor: I may not like my alliance member, but I’m sticking with them because it helps my game. Well, that’s exactly what Joe was thinking this week. And Aubry too, for the beginning of the episode. But then she started thinking about Peter.
Peter’s behavior didn’t provide any rewards for Joe or Aubry (or anybody besides Liz, seemingly). And, finally, Aubry decided his behavior wasn’t attractive enough to warrant keeping around. There was no reward to keeping him around once she realized he might try to take her out.
Again, this is all pretty simplistic, but that’s kind of what theory is, you know? If you’re like me as an undergrad, when professors started talking about theory, my eyes would gloss over because I thought it all sounded so complicated. But then I started thinking about it. At its heart, theory is just a way of explaining things. Why do we do the things we do, in all contexts? Why do we like people who make us happy? Why do we reward some behaviors and not others? This is, kind of, what social psychology is all about.
And this episode we saw Peter (who, it must said, might be one of the worst players we’ve seen in a while) outlive his usefulness to Aubry. When he was just an arrogant ass, she could deal with him because he rewarded her with votes. Once he started targeting her, there were no rewards at all left for her if she kept him around.
OK, so that’s that. Let’s now move from theory and talk about the remaining players. It sure seems like this is the last time we’ll be talking about them as two distinct tribes. Or maybe not.
Well, that’s all I got this week. If you’re celebrating a holiday this weekend, have a good one. If not, have a good one. We’ll talk next Friday.
Pat Ferrucci started watching Survivor when episode two of Borneo first aired. He’s seen every episode since. Besides recapping here, he’ll be live-tweeting this season from the Mountain Time Zone. Why? Because nobody cares about the Mountain Time Zone except when they want to ski. Follow him @patferrucci for Survivor stuff and tweets about anything and everything that enters his feeble mind.