I was thinking really hard about what I wanted to write for this February blog post, when suddenly Family Feud came to my mind. At first I wasn’t necessarily sure why this happened, until I started thinking about the structure of the game. What is Family Feud, truly? The game consists of contestants essentially guessing about how “average” Americans might answer a question that is presented to them by the producers of the show. This, luckily enough for me, is a great cognitive tool! However, because I was unable to find much scientific literature that linked Family Feud with any specific cognitive concepts, I thought it would be interesting to simply brainstorm some things that I think could be going on. Feel free to comment after reading and let me know what you think! For me, I could see Family Feud contestants utilizing two things when they answer questions: basic-level concepts and typicality effects. Basic-level concepts are the most frequently used concept category, and usually provide us with quick, often automatic information that is useful to us. Examples of this might be words that trigger specific cognitive categorization (e.g., cat in the animal category) (1). The overall theory of typicality effects states that individuals are more likely to respond to typical examples of a category rather than something that is atypical (e.g., being asked to name a fruit and responding with “Apple” instead of “Jackfruit”) (2). Some very basic questions from Family Feud might include “Name something you fill with air.” I’ll give you a second… If you guessed balloons, good job! Balloons was the “number one answer.” These so-called “number one answers” are simply answers that occur more frequently than others, and are more-than-likely brought to our mind through basic-level concepts. For example, the “number two answer” was simply “tires.” This doesn’t make tires a wrong answer, but it was less frequently used and therefore scored lower on the list. The last answer was air mattresses. According to typicality, this scored last perhaps because it was the most “atypical” of the group.
Another game show that utilizes typicality effects and basic-level concepts (that actually just came out in 2018) is aptly called America Says. This game is similar to Family Feud in that contestants are asked to come up with answers to questions that earn them points. Questions might consist of “People usually eat ______ in one bite,” and “I’m really afraid of _____.” The contestants are then asked to come up with relevant answers to these questions in a short amount of time, literally based on what they think “America” most typically “says.” As we all know, typicality effects differ from culture to culture. I think it would be really interesting to see different variations of this game in other cultures to test typicality effects more thoroughly. There are most definitely other versions of Family Feud, but since America Says is fairly new, I’m unsure if the concept has reached other countries. Either way, if you are more interested in testing yourself for typicality effect greatness, I recommend watching Family Feud or America Says and playing along!