When Focal Points are Out of Focus: A Game-Theoretic Analysis of Come Dine with Me
We interpret the TV-show Come Dine with Me as a simultaneous non-cooperative game with evaluation levels as strategic variables, and show that it belongs to a class of strategic games which we label mutual evaluations games (MEG). Any MEG possesses a ‘zero equilibrium’—i. e. a Nash equilibrium where all players evaluate each other with the lowest available scores — as well as numberless ‘non-zero equilibria’. Since the former is an equilibrium in weakly dominant strategies, it may arguably be regarded as a focal point. Yet, in 212 rounds of the German format of Come Dine with Me contestants never got to this focal point, nor did they (with one exception) play any other equilibrium. We provide potential explanations for this off-equilibrium behaviour by considering the impact of social pressure and reputation mechanisms, bandwagon effects, inequality aversion and sequential voting effects.
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