ABC’s ‘Primetime’ Tests Game Theory On Weight Loss

Filed under: Television — @ December 21, 2006

Social scientists Schelling and Nalebuff test “Game Theory” on weight loss

Did you watch ABC’s “Primetime: Basic Instinct” on Wednesday night? I was so impressed by the way they shaped the “Game Theory” weight loss story they featured. BRAVO, ABC!

Since the so-called health “experts” in the United States haven’t got a clue about what people need to do to lose weight, leave it to some social scientists to apply a Nobel Prize-winning theory to the subject of weight loss.

Thomas C. Schelling, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maryland, won the prestigious for his famous work on the economic application of the “Game Theory,” but could it possibly apply to the emotionally touchy subject of weight loss? Schelling said there is one aspect that can work in virtually any given situation where a specific end result is desired such as losing weight. It’s called the credible threat.

Barry Nalebuff, professor of management at Yale University, wanted to help ABC television news show “Primetime” determine what impact this theory could have on weight loss.

So, they rounded up two teams of 10 people each and provided one of two incentives for losing weight: one team got positive reinforcement and encouragement from an uplifting coach while the other team was threatened with having embarrassing photos of themselves in a skimpy bathing suit posted on the Jumbotron during a baseball game!

Click here to read more about this fascinating experiment in social science that some think may help prove shame is as powerful a tool in weight loss as reinforcement.


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