Britain’s Got Talent Syndrome

Britain’s Got Talent Syndrome

Why are people afraid to be honest with friends and loved ones?

When watching the freakshow that is X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent, I never ceased to be amazed by the number of “people” that come on to show the judges, and the viewing public their “talent”. Whatever that may be. They then proceed to embarrass themselves (and me – an all over body cringe seizes me, and I often start to sweat) on National television.

They story is always the same. The audience laughs or boos (or sometimes applauds the unbelievably awful performance), and the judges finally ask: “Why did you come on?” or “Who told you could sing/dance?” and the answer?

“Everyone/my Mum/my family/my friends”.

This is what I call Britain’s Got Talent Syndrome (BGTS). BGTS sufferers are unable to tell love ones the truth. They feel unable to advise Timmy that rather than having the voice of an angel, he sounds like an unserviced 1970s Ford Cortina skidding around a rather sharp bend. But why? Why on Earth would you let a loved one embarrass themselves on National television?

Edited on 19/08/2012 to add:

Having last night seen the abhorrent behaviour of Zoe Alexander (the self-labelled Pink Impersonator from 18th August’s X-Factor. If it was up to me there’s no way I would describe her as that), and the way her family supported and defended her (and her obscene rants and physical violence), I can now see that BGTS is contagious. Whether Zoe was infected by the BGTSO (Britains Got Talent Syndrome Organism) first, or whether it was passed to her from her mother or father is unknown, but it seems pretty clear that this entire family suffers from BGTS.

The girl is now claiming in the papers that she is now a “nervous wreck”, and she can’t even sleep at night despite the fact the audition was actually held in June. Zoe’s convinced she was stitched up, and that her treatment was unfair.

Perhaps it was unfair – after all, if she has contracted BGTS from her parents, then I suppose there’s no way she would know just how bad she was. Shame on you, X-Factor: you really must introduce a BGTS screening process. Oh no, wait, that would make the show terribly, terribly dull – like The Voice.

Behavioural Economics

Professor Dan Ariely is a marvellous man. If you’ve not heard of him, or read any of his material, or heard him speak then I urge you to head over to YouTube immediately and look him up. Prof. Ariely was involved in a horrendous car accident as a youth which left him with terrible burns all over his body. He spent many, many months in hospital having painful bandage-changing procedures each and every day to encourage regrowth of skin. He had plenty of time to think and watch people and the way they behaved. He became fascinated with human behaviour.

The nurses performing his bandage changes used the “short sharp” method of bandage removal that we are all familiar with from parents removing plasters/band-aids when we were children. But was this method proven to be better than slow, gradual removal? Sure, we know it’s conventional wisdom – so it must be right? Prof Ariely actually discovered that the short sharp method caused more pain and distress than the slow method, so how come these caring, wonderful people had chosen to repeatedly use a method that inflicted more pain? This was one of the mysteries that led Prof Ariely to the world of behavioural economics –  the study of the effects of social, cognitive and emotional factors on the economic (and other) decisions of individuals and institutions and the consequences for market prices, returns and the resource allocation.

Professor Ariely’s book: Predictably Irrational is a fantastic book looking at the various reasons why we do behave so irrationally in so many circumstances, and why these irrational behaviours occur in a predictable fashion. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, those around you, and business decisions by reading the book. It’s thoroughly entertaining too – I’ve read it about 20 times, and still enjoy it now.

In this fantastic presentation, Prof Ariely gives a delightful overview of what behavioural economics can show us and how predictably irrational we all are!