For this assignment we have chosen to watch an episode of the American series Survivor. Below you can find the answers we have made as a team about the episode we have watched.
1) Identify the name of the show you chose, the episode name/number, and if multiple groups are featured, which group you observed. Briefly describe the “objective” features of the situation you observed: the team, its members, what they are trying to accomplish, and the environment they are operating in.
In this analysis of group behavior we are examining an episode of the reality television game show survivor, which plays in the Australian Outback (Season 2, episode 21). The show features two teams or so-called tribes, a young and an older tribe, who are left in the wilderness in order to compete for ‘survival’ – survival meaning not getting eliminated. The interesting aspect of the game show is, besides the competition between the two tribes, the individual members compete with each other as well, since only one person can obtain the 1 Million $ cash prize in the end. During the course of the game, contestants eliminate each other within the teams until in person remains. In addition, every player receives a cash prize for participating, depending on how long he or she lasts in the game. In order to achieve the main objective of ‘surviving’ until the end of the game and win the 1 million $ cash prize, the players aim for making as many alliances with other players as possible.
In our analysis, we are focusing on the composition and behavior of the older tribe, since we were interested in taking a closer look at the way they organized themselves pretty neatly from the beginning on, as opposed to the younger, more scattered team.
2) Provide a comparison of your team’s answers to the individual observation questions above. How were your impressions similar? Where did your impressions differ?
When comparing our individual impressions and observations of the team, we have not encountered any major differences. Our similar ways of analyzing the tribe may origin in the fact that each of us has been raised and is used to living in rather individualistic Western societies in the Netherlands, Germany, and in Lithuania. One striking communality that we all agreed on was that we felt that the emotional instability of one contestant, Holly, was inappropriate and harmful to her position in the group. In opposition to Holly’s instability, which lead to a temporary outbreak of temper and anger, Jimmy J. manages to be accepted leader almost unquestioned due to high confidence and a very stable emotional state. Interestingly, we all tended to fall victim to the ‘halo effect’, mentioned in Robbins et al. (2009). The halo effect describes the tendency to judge a person’s general character based on one single predominant characteristic trait (Robbins et al, 2009, p.114). For both tribe members, Holly and Jimmy J., each of us tended to generalize them respectively because of the emotional outbreak and the dominant attitude.
3) What evidence did your teammates use to form their initial impressions of the group, its members, and the dynamics?
The episode of Survivor clearly shows how the older tribe works together to survive on the island. As the individuals can only survive by cooperating, every team member has an incentive to cooperate with the other team members. The most striking issue in the first part of the episode is the selection of the leader of the group. Most members of the older tribe silently accept the leadership role of Jimmy J. The group members reason that Jimmy J. is a NFL coach in his daily life and therefore has a lot of experience as a leader. Two other team members are not content with the leadership role of Jimmy J., however, they do not publicly object to the selection of Jimmy J. as a leader. This indicates that all team members attempt to avoid conflict as this would complicate team cooperation.
Even though, the group chooses a leader early on in the show, the group does not completely function as a team. The older tribe mainly faces communication problems. This becomes apparent when the team attempts to have a meeting in the morning. The meeting is very chaotic as everyone tries to express his/her own opinion. However, as the episode continues, the team members start to communicate more clearly with one another. Especially during team challenge, the team cooperates well to win the challenge. All team members immediately choose their position in the challenge and they communicate effectively to win the challenge. During the challenge both the younger and the older tribe had to go through a mud bath to search for four balls in a haystack. These balls then had to be bounced from plate to plate by the team members to score points. As each team member had his own task in the challenge, good communication was necessary for the older tribe to win from the younger tribe.
The individual members of the older tribe made different impressions on all of us. We all agreed that Jimmy J. made a very dominant impression as he immediately took the role as team leader. Jimmy T. and Dan both have dominant personalities as well, as they did not immediately accept Jimmy J’s leadership.
Holly, on the other hand, made a very narcissistic impression. Holly does not communicate well with the other team members. In fact, when Holly got angry with Dan she took his alligator shoes, filled them with sand and dumped them in the water to get back at him. Moreover, Holly claimed on the episode that she never failed at anything in her life and that she would not fail on survivor either. When the older tribe won the challenge Holly even claimed that this was due to her staying on the island to help out the team.
Tyrone and Jill come across as very rational individuals. Tyrone makes this impression when he tries to organize the chaos during the meeting by setting a clear agenda for the meeting. Jill, on the other hand, makes strategic decisions during the game. She thinks about striking strategic alliances with other members of the older tribe.
The other members of the older tribe seem to be subordinate to Jimmy J. This can either indicate that they are risk avoiding or that they are playing a strategic game to win the trust of the other team members.
4) Was there evidence of prejudice, discrimination, or the use of stereotypes in the show – either between group members, between groups depicted, or from other people on the show? Describe your observation.
There were several different aspects of the show that provided evidence of injustice and inequality. In several instances stereotypes are used in the show, as well as there are indications of racism, sexism and inequality of different age groups.
Firstly, the people were divided in two teams according to their age. One group was made of younger people, the other – older. This clearly indicates that there is an age division, and also the expectations from these teams are different – they are expected to perform less well in physical tasks, as well as to be more calm and organized. The second indication of prejudice may be seen in the ‘young’ team, where minorities – a black girl, half-black man and an Asian girl want to form a ‘minority’ alliance. They feel that they have to collaborate because they have something in common – they are not white. Another indication of stereotypes appeared in the physical task, when the black man from the ‘older’ team was chosen to be the one who would throw balls to the barrel – an indication that basketball is for black people. The final observation of inequality was that of sexism – in the team ‘Espada’ it is very clear that the leaders are men, they decide what course of action to take, how to behave, what are the rules. Women seem subordinate and do not really question authority. Overall, the game has its aspects which are based on stereotypes, as it as an ‘easy’ show, so it has to be made easy for people to make sense of – shortcuts are provided.
5) As a team, outline the strengths and weaknesses of the group you observed. Provide evidence from your team’s observations to support these claims.
We thought the strength of the older tribe was that it had a clear structure. We all observed this clear structure. The team had a clear leader, who divided the tasks on a daily basis. The younger tribe had some trouble with finding the right leader because multiple guys felt like they were the true leader. This lead to miscommunication during the challenge. This miscommunication gave the older tribe the chance to win. The weaknesses of the older tribe as a team were that they needed to have a scapegoat. In this episode, Holly was the person who was discriminated, after she had her emotional breakout. This could be solved trough better communication.
6) Based on what the members of your team have learned from the course so far, and your team’s observations from question 5
From the episode that we have observed, we discovered that the biggest problem in the “Espada” team is the lack of communication and not clear hierarchical relationships within the team. This disrupts the tasks that the members of the team have to perform and also makes some of them feel left out. For example, we have seen how this lack of communication eventually grows into conflicts – as when one person (Holly) throws out the snails that the other team members have agreed were good to eat. In addition, the hierarchy is seen in the morning meeting, where Jimmy J steps up to be leading the team by himself, and while most others follow unquestionably, there is some opposition from Jimmy T and Tyrone, which is withheld later in the day. These instances clearly show that better communication would mean less conflicts and easier lives for the team members.
The best solutions to this problem are concerned with raising the level of democracy and participation of each and every one of the team members, especially regarding decision making. Possible solutions include:
· Everyone should have 2 minutes during morning meeting to express their opinion and views.
· Decisions should be taken democratically – everyone votes.
· Clear division of labor – everyone is assigned a specific task for which he/she is responsible.
· Election of a leader – rather than waiting for one team member to step up and take the leadership position, everyone votes for who should be the leader.
· If any problem comes up any member of a team can call a ‘tribe meeting’ and discuss what is going on, as well as find a solution to their problem.
The strategy that we offer includes the solutions proposed above. Firstly, team members have to gather in a meeting and everyone has to express their opinion on the way things are going on. It is not a voluntary process – everyone must speak up. This would solve problems with some members feeling left out or not listened to. Secondly, after hearing all the problems, we propose the list of solutions. The entire team votes for every proposition, and only this way changes are implemented. The main idea of our strategy is to make team members feel like they are involved in the decision making, so their motivation levels would rise and they would speak up more often. If the team votes in favor of change, then firstly they elect a leader, then divide the tasks and also decide which way of communication – morning/evening meeting, ‘tribal meeting’ – they would like to have in their team.