📺 Watched season 1 of The Traitors.

A reality show where by day a group of strangers complete missions to build up a prize pot, and by night they viciously accuse each other of treachery in order to eject them from the show entirely.

Which is fair enough, because a few of them are in fact traitors. Claudia Winkelman secretly assigned them that role at the start. The viewer knows who they are, the participants do not. They have to figure it out by whatever means they can. Each night they must vote out the person they collectively believe is most traitorous. Of course, to maintain their subterfuge the traitors also have to pretend that’s what they’re doing too and put their public votes in too.

If the “faithful” vote out all the traitors then they share the prize pot. But if even one traitor remains by the end of the series then the surviving traitors get it all.

Each night whilst the others sleep the anonymous traitors also get to metaphorically kill one of the contestants, kicking them off the show without the ability to defend themselves.

Honestly, it feels a little grim and exploitative to watch. I really hope there’s a pile of expert psychologists behind the scenes to help the players cope with the virulent suspicion, deception, mistrust, arguments, paranoia, confrontations and the rest of it.

But watching the participants - the genuinely legit and the traitors trying to appear as such - try to figure out who the traitors are provides incredible examples of all sorts of cognitive biases - confirmation bias, the halo effect, salience bias, a kind of pareidolia, overconfidence, the gambler’s fallacy and a ton of herd instinct to name but a few. And all this at the same time as being put into an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people.

It’s such a fascinating example of all these psychological processes going on, some that we can probably recognise very well in ourselves if we stop and think about it for a minute in between screaming at the TV, that it turns out to be compulsive viewing. Even if it’s probably not exactly great for most of the folk involved.