‘The Price Is Right’: Scientific Study Breaks Down The Decision ‘To Spin or Not to Spin’ The Wheel

by Madison Miller
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While game shows may just seem like fun and games, there’s a good amount of science and statistics that go into being successful and earning big money.

The goal of “The Price Is Right” is to guess the price of merchandise without going over. One part of the show, called Showcase Showdown, features a large spinning wheel. Each contestant is given two chances to spin the wheel, which has different values from 5 cents to $1 in 5 cent increments.

Players can choose if they want to spin the wheel for a second time or not. If they do, there’s a possibility of surpassing $1 and therefore being eliminated. Basically, whichever player is closest to $1 gets to go on to the final Showcase.

The questions is: To spin or not to spin?

‘The Price Is Right’ Wheel

Similar to other game shows like “Wheel of Fortune,” the wheel in “The Price Is Right” can bring great fortune or great distress.

According to Mental Floss, an entire scientific paper was dedicated to figuring out if contestants should spin once or twice. It is called “To Spin or Not to Spin?” and is a study from the Royal Economic Society.

“We derive the unique subgame perfect Nash equilibrium (USPNE) for The Wheel and test its predictive ability using data from both the television show and the laboratory of this game. We find that contestants frequently deviate from the USPNE when the decisions are difficult,” the study said.

To most people, that makes absolutely no sense. It just proves that statistics play a huge role in spinning the wheel. Which makes sense given dice, wheels, and other game-related features often include probability and pure luck as a part of being successful.

The manuscript even outlines the contestants winning percentages based on whether they took that second spin or not. At the end of the day, a part of being on a show like “The Price Is Right” is about making impulsive and often times even reckless decisions. It’s a game of risk-taking.

Beyond just spinning the wheel, there’s a lot of game strategy that goes into being on the show. According to Slate, it may be beneficial when you’re the last to bid to only bid one dollar more than the highest bidder. The final bidders who had committed to this strategy had won 54% of the time at the time this article was released.

Why is the Show Still On?

“The Price Is Right” has been on since 1972. It is still on today with 49 total seasons.

What makes the show so popular that it is able to work both in the ’70s and now?

“The reason it was so popular originally and why it is still popular is because of the powerful basic premise of the show—everything is based on prices. Everyone identifies with prices. The minute we put something up for bid and the contestant makes a bid, the viewer is involved. Once you become involved, we have accomplished what the producer of every game show wants: viewer involvement…” Bob Barker told the Los Angeles Times.

At the end of the day, money connects everyone. For “The Price Is Right,” despite constantly changing products and prices, money and pricing are still the universal themes. Even now, that remains popular.

Outsider.com