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Does The Sun Go Around The Earth In France?

While flipping through the pages of the book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior” by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman, I came across this interesting analysis. This is where a participant in the TV show “Who wants to become a millionaire?” being shown in France, is asked the question that goes something like:

What goes around the Earth?

1) Moon

2) Venus

3) Mars

4) Sun

To the surprise of everyone in the audience, including his girlfriend, he does not know the answer, and he decides to take the audience’s help. And, most unexpectedly, 52% of the people in the audience pick “Sun.” The authors’ explanation to this behavior goes: Most people in the audience did not want a guy who couldn’t answer such a simple question to become a millionaire, and so they intentionally gave him the wrong answer.

That seems to rationally explain the seemingly irrational behavior. The authors go on to elaborate that a similar situation occurred in Russia, but here, the audience had a tendency to give the participant a wrong answer regardless of whether they thought he/she was smart and hence worthy of becoming a millionaire or not. It appears that in a society such as Russian where people have the notion of everyone being equal, thanks to years of communism, they are not very happy to see one of them becoming rich. The authors further speculate that in the shows aired in the US, the audiences are known to help the participant no matter what – they just want him/her to win and take all the money. This, according to the authors, is the result of capitalistic mindset where it is common to see some people get rich.

As the economies around the world continue to come together with stronger inter-dependence, i.e., more global, it would be interesting to see its effect on the mindset of people in societies with very different socio-economic backgrounds.

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