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Saturday, 25 October 2014

How did Jedward get the UK’s douze points?

From: What the monkey sees...

Saturday night’s Eurovision cheese-fest was painful to watch, but among the mass of mediocrity Jedward, the Irish twins, stood out for their tuneless singing and uncoordinated dance moves. So why did they get top points from the UK (and others)? And are they any clues as to why Azerbaijan won with such dire schmaltz?

The problem in the past has been blamed on the judges. They were seen as following narrow national interests and simply voting for their country’s friends and neighbours. To overcome this ‘diplomatic bias’, the voting system was changed a couple of years ago. Give the population of each country 50% of the vote and no longer would a small coterie of judges be able to put politics ahead of art.

Alas, the new system has not worked the way the organisers hoped. As The Guardian points out, voting patterns are much the same as they ever were, with the eastern bloc still largely voting for each other and Greece still voting for Cyprus and vice versa. So are we all motivated to behave like diplomats and back our neighbours in support of national interests, or might there be something else going on?

On Saturday night 25 songs were performed in quick succession over two hours. And in the UK at least, there was not even the small mercy of an ad break.

Behavioural economics suggests that when we are blitzed with information like this, we abandon reason and rely on ‘heuristics’ or metal shortcuts to make decisions; we can’t process the information in a rational way so we defer to our gut instincts.

“In making predictions and judgments under uncertainty, people… rely on a limited number of heuristics which sometimes yield reasonable judgments and sometimes lead to severe and systematic errors” (Kahneman & Tversky, 1973)

But what shapes our gut instincts?

There are a range of factors but what we are familiar with is key. If we have heard a song before or the song sounds like something we have heard before then we are much more likely to latch on to it.

So perhaps it is not so much rational diplomacy but emotional familiarity that makes us vote for neighbouring countries in Eurovision.

Jedward’s familiarity to us in the UK (rather than a bias towards the Irish) is much more likely to explain why we voted for them. And we gave eight points to the people from Moldova who were a very familiar cross between Madness and the Monster Mash.

And what of Azerbaijan? Was there not something very familiar about their song Running Scared? The costumes seemed to come straight off an Abba set.

Outside Eurovision, familiarity also helps explain many of our purchasing decisions. It helps explain why, after Eurovision, with our cracking headaches, we reach for branded aspirin when unbranded versions are available for a fraction of the price.

Readers' comments (10)

  • Another behavioural factor which is important in this case is the concept of salience - the idea that our attention is limited and whatever can grab hold of it and dominate will receive a higher valuation.

    I'd argue that the Moldova votes are an effect of salience rather than familiarity. After all, you could hardly help but notice those hats in the midst of song after song of dreary Euroballads.

    Of course, there's also a rational argument: we have a preference for Eurovision to be entertaining and ridiculous, and if we vote for the most entertaining and ridiculous acts, countries will be encouraged to provide more of them next year.

    I suspect this is a case where the main behavioural and rational effects intensify each other rather than being in conflict.

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  • Alternatively a load of UK Jedward fans mulitvoted like crazy, on multiple phones! People who were familiar with Jedward saw them for what they are, fun and liked it.
    Sweden and Denmark also gave Ireland 12 points, the song is charting all over Europe.

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  • Half of jedward's dance moves were co - ordinated, But they have convinced me you can have too much co - ordinated dance moves, it gets boring! And they sang just fine!
    They also designed the entire look of the thing themselves. Jedward = actually not as talentless and commonly believed!

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  • Oh dear, Helen. They did change the system two years ago, but what they did was BRING BACK the juries (50%), because the televoting was getting so ridiculous with the 'neighbour and diaspora voting' for countries rather than songs. You've got it totally wrong. Juries are considerably less biased.

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  • I voted for Jedward because I found them entertaining and I liked the song out of all others. This was probably because I don't find them tuneless. They've come a long way since the script was for them to be Simon Cowell's buffoons to allow and encourage an audience to boo a couple of 17/18 year-olds.

    I think we like songs with sounds which are familiar which is why, e.g. Cyprus and Greece vote for each other.

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  • Oh come on, sour grapes, they sang better than the British entry Blue and it was a better song.
    They also won the Marcel Bezençon artistic Award .
    I suggest you fix this edit box before you start criticising others.

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  • Jedward top the itunes charts in Ireland, Germany, Austria and Sweden. I suppose that was rigged too.
    With business research like this it is no surprise the UK is bankrupt.

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  • I watched them online as I live in DC and can't get RTE but i have to say they likely got the votes because a) they're young and carefree b) they're not full of slick and balony like some of the groups and c) they sang all right for kids their age and they did it with so much heart and passion they deserve the votes they got and more. Eurovision used to be a lot more fun when I was a kid - JEDWARD put some fun back into it - they didnt take themselves, the competition or life too seriously and did it with full hearts and to make the Irish proud of them and they managed it! These lads will go a long way on enthusiasm, heart and soul!

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  • Europe loves the Jeds - simple. Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, UK, Denmark, Austria and Finland all gave them a good number of points.
    As River said -- the boys came up with everything from their outfits to the dance routines. They even had a say in their video backdrop. They're uber creative AND hardworking AND they're likeable. At least Europe realises this (unlike the UK who still act like ignorant prats)

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  • That's because the rest of Europe didn't have to put up with the X Factor and the constant tabloid headlines concerning them (and only them) during and even after the process.

    Oh good it's all starting again soon...

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