Housewives v. academics - who's the weakest link?

August 15, 2003

Housewives and manual workers may be better at popular quiz shows than academics, according to a recent study.

Whether it's Who Wants to be a Millionaire ? or The Weakest Link , non-academics are at least as likely to hit the jackpot as intellectuals, says Joachim Prinz, an economic scientist from Germany's Witten-Herdecke University.

He said: "Contrary to popular opinion, the results of my research showed that workers and housewives fared just as well, if not better, than academics. Expert knowledge is not always the recipe for success. In some situations, knowledge that is collected in everyday life is more useful."

Professor Prinz looked at 149 male and female contestants who appeared on Wer Wird Millionär ?, the German version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

He said: "There are questions from many areas including showbiz, sport and pop. Watching TV or solving crossword puzzles are therefore more useful than expert knowledge."

But more life experience does not guarantee success over more formal learning, Professor Prinz found.

"Older participants were not able to answer more questions correctly than their younger counterparts. And the only person to answer the million-euro question (in Germany) correctly was a student," he said.

For his research, Professor Prinz had to sit through hours of the quiz show as German television station RTL, which broadcasts the programme, refused to release any details about the contestants or results of the shows for the scientific study.

The study was in its early stages and the number of cases he had studied so far was not enough to reach final conclusions, Professor Prinz said. He plans to study more contestants and other quiz shows. "The results I have so far achieved are not conclusive, but they do prove that popular culture is just as valid and important as a good formal education."

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