Tag Archives: Jeopardy

“Julia Lost on Jeopardy Because I Watched Live”

A few weeks ago, there was a contestant on Jeopardy that made quite a run. She didn’t break any of Ken Jennings’ records, but she certainly set a few records for females on Jeopardy. In fact, Julia Collins now has the record for the longest winning streak by a woman (and also the second longest winning streak — male or female) and the woman to have won the most money on Jeopardy. As it happens, I was lucky enough to see every episode.

Earlier this year, my son was born and one of the ways that helps him to sleep is if I bounce on an exercise ball. Since this can happen at odd hours of the day, I started watching DVR’d episodes of Jeopardy. In fact, I remember the first game that Julia won because she had to beat a Canadian. Anyway, over the course of 5 weeks, I continued to watch Julia handily defeat her competition and then when it was interrupted for the Jeopardy Battle of the Decades, I watched that.

When the regularly scheduled episodes returned with Julia, she was beginning to get some media attention. On the one hand, I thought this was great because she certainly deserved it, but it made it harder for me to avoid spoilers (really? Who needs to avoid spoilers for Jeopardy!?). I started to watch the episode a few hours after it aired on some nights because I noticed that some folks were tweeting about Julia’s streak continuing.

Julia hit her 20th win in a row on a Friday, which meant she got to come back on Monday. It just so happened that I was near the TV on Monday night, so, to avoid spoilers, I watched the episode live. As you already know (either from the title of this post or from knowing), Julia went on to lose that game. After she lost, I laughed to myself, “I shouldn’t have watched the episode live — that’s why Julia lost.”

Now, did you notice the cognitive bias?

The confirmation bias.

To be fair, I didn’t divulge all the information up front, but if you understand the confirmation bias, you’re going to think you have all the information. After watching Julia lose attempting to win her 21st game in a row, I said to myself that because I watched it live, she lost. [Note: of course, you’re going to have to suspend disbelief for a short while as my watching or not watching an episode of Jeopardy is not actually going to cause or not cause someone to win/lose. At this point, it’s science fiction.]

The thing I’m not telling you (nor was I telling myself to have said this to myself then, lest I be experiencing cognitive dissonance), was that I had also snuck a peak at a few of the episodes from wins 16 to 20. That is, even though I may not have watched a full episode live until her loss going for win 21, I did watch some bits of the other episodes live. So, at the conclusion of Julia’s streak, I selectively (though not intentionally) misremembered the number of times I’d seen Julia live and concluded that by my watching live, she lost.

Best Posts of Jeremiah Stanghini’s Blog in 2013

Last year when I did a best posts series, I ended up doing three different posts. This year, since all of the posts that appear on this website originated on this website, I wouldn’t need to include any posts about Genuine Thriving. My first inclination was to do a best of 2013 and a best of all-time, but after looking at the statistics, the best of 2013 and the best of all-time are essentially — identical. As a result, I decided to just do the one post of the best posts of 2013.

Before revealing the top 6 posts along with an excerpt, there is one thing to keep in mind. On the old site, there used to be only an excerpt shown with the post. So, if someone wanted to read the whole post, they had to click the link (this was just how the theme worked). On this site, however, I specifically chose a theme where folks wouldn’t have to click a link to view the whole post (only to share or comment because those links are on the post’s page). As a result, the statistics for the most popular posts are sure to be skewed because people may have read a certain post more than another, but without them clicking the link for the post, there’s no way (that I know of) for me to know. On top of that, the theme I’ve chosen here allows the viewer to scroll (all the way to the first post!) What does that mean? When you’re on the homepage, you can continue to scroll down and more posts will load… all the way ’til you get to the first post. And in looking at the statistics of the top posts, it’s clear that “scrolling down” is far and away the most popular “post” on this site (this was true last year, too). With that in mind, here they are with an excerpt for each:

The Official Final Jeopardy Spelling Rules [UPDATED]

If you know me, you know that I’m really good at finding things on the Internet. After doing a couple of cursory google searches (Final Jeopardy RulesOfficial Final Jeopardy RulesOfficial Jeopardy Rules), I was surprised that I couldn’t find them. Sometimes, the site that hosts a document like this doesn’t do a good job of using keywords. So, I thought I’d poke around the official Jeopardy site — nothing.

After some more derivations of “Rules of Jeopardy,” I was beginning to think that maybe the rules aren’t online. I thought that maybe the contestants were handed a paper copy that they signed before going on the show and that document wasn’t online. Having never been a contestant on Jeopardy (though I’d like to be some time!) I couldn’t confirm whether this was true. However, given that it’s a game show, I’m sure they signed something before going on the show. Regardless, I didn’t have access to that document.

In The End, Everything Will Be OK – If It’s Not OK, It’s Not Yet The End

It’s no secret that I like quotes. Since converting my Facebook profile to a Facebook page, I’ve gotten into the habit of sharing a “quote of the day.” If my calculations are correct, I’ve been sharing quotes of the day for over 80 days now. As you’ll notice that I also have a quotes category, I’ve shared a number of quotes here on this site, too. And if I think back to the days of AIM (AOL Instant Manager), I often had quotes as my “away” message. And even before then, I remember really liking quotes in high school and in elementary (or grade) school. So, like I said, it’s no secret that I like quotes.

If You Want to Be Happy, Spend Your Bonus On Your Coworkers

That bonus you were looking forward to at the end of the year is “yours” and you should get to spend it on you and your family. Except, research shows that’s not the case. In fact, the research indicates that spending the money on someone other than yourself actually leads to greater happiness. More than that, it can lead to your improved performance at work.

The Confirmation Bias — What Do You Really Know: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 6

Why is the confirmation bias so loathed? Well, as Nickerson points out, it may be the root cause of many disputes both on an individual and an international level. Let’s think about this for a second: let’s say that in the world of objectivity “out there,” there are any number of possibilities. In the world  of subjectivity “inside my head,” there are only the possibilities that I can imagine. Humans, on the whole, tend to fear change (there are over 600,000,000 results for that search on Google!). In order to allay those fears, I’m going to prefer information that already conforms to my previously held beliefs. As a result, when I look “out there,” I’m going to unconsciously be looking for things that are “inside my head.”

Advancing America’s Public Transportation System: High-Speed Rail in the USA

When it was first announced that the US was going to work on , I was very excited! Growing up in the , I am very familiar with the value of public transportation. I often rode a bus to and from school. As I matured and wanted to explore downtown with my friends, we’d ride the  to get there from the suburban area we lived. Beyond that, when I needed to make trips between Detroit and Toronto, I would ride the  between Toronto and Windsor instead of taking the 45 minute flight. Public transportation is a great way, in my opinion, to feel better about reducing one’s .

Three Lessons from The Hobbit: On Doing What You Can, Having Faith, and Demonstrating Leadership

Anyway, as I was watching, there were a few instances I noticed that could serve as quintessential lessons. Given that The Hobbit is a good example of the hero’s journey, it’s not surprising that there’d be great lessons to be found in the story.

The Official Final Jeopardy Spelling Rules [UPDATED]

I noticed I was getting a bump in search engine traffic for people who were looking for the spelling rules to Final Jeopardy. jeopardy21_2013_floatingNo doubt, this is in part because there was a small bit about the incident on The Today Show this morning. When I wrote about some of the implications for whether they should have given the contestant the benefit of the doubt, I didn’t include the official final jeopardy spelling rules. At the time, I was merely reflecting in hypothetical, but with people searching for the official rules, it made me wonder just what they rules said about spelling in Final Jeopardy.

If you know me, you know that I’m really good at finding things on the Internet. After doing a couple of cursory google searches (Final Jeopardy Rules, Official Final Jeopardy Rules, Official Jeopardy Rules), I was surprised that I couldn’t find them. Sometimes, the site that hosts a document like this doesn’t do a good job of using keywords. So, I thought I’d poke around the official Jeopardy site — nothing.

After some more derivations of “Rules of Jeopardy,” I was beginning to think that maybe the rules aren’t online. I thought that maybe the contestants were handed a paper copy that they signed before going on the show and that document wasn’t online. Having never been a contestant on Jeopardy (though I’d like to be some time!) I couldn’t confirm whether this was true. However, given that it’s a game show, I’m sure they signed something before going on the show. Regardless, I didn’t have access to that document.

When I was poking around the Jeopardy site, I noticed there was a message board for Jeopardy. While not an official source, I thought that there might be some discussion of what had happened on the show last week (EmancipTation Proclamation) in the context of the rules. After reading through some of the messages on the thread talking about it, I realized that it could take a while. Before reading through that thread, I noticed a different thread that was directing everyone to the 22-page thread talking about what happened because it had “several clear explanations” as to why the judges had to rule the way that they did.

After reading the 22-page thread — the majority of which were people who registered for the forum simply to complain about the ruling — there were some interesting anecdotes. For instance, did you know that this misspelling incident has happened on Final Jeopardy in the past? In an episode that aired on June 6, 2007, there was a clue that was looking for the response: “Sargasso Sea.” The person in the lead (going into Final Jeopardy), however, misspelled his response. He wrote, “SarAgasso Sea.” As you can see in the video below, the judges ruled the same way they did for EmancipTation:

As this really didn’t answer my question about the “official rules,” I thought I’d do a Site Search of the message board to see if I could find the rules. I used some of those keywords from earlier and like before, didn’t find anything official. Although, this was an interesting entry [Emphasis Added]:

I have no official source for this, but from what I’ve heard from various people over the years, there is no official written set of rules that the judges are required to abide by. It has been mentioned that this could be done for liability purposes, because if the judges were to make a ruling that went against their written rules, a player could potentially sue them, or something like that. I believe that in the contestant paperwork, all players must sign something agreeing that all judges’ decisions are final. There may be some general guidelines for acceptable responses in this paperwork, but they probably don’t cover all possible scenarios, and the judges’ decision will always be final. While they do have appeal processes, and I presume that they work to the best of their ability to ensure that no contestant is treated unfairly, I’m sure there have been instances of players leaving the show feeling that they were in some way treated unfairly due to an unfortunate judges ruling either against them, or in favor of a competing player.

There are a lot of little rules of thumb that longtime viewers of the show have been able to piece together over the years, and most times the show’s rulings seem pretty consistent with past precedents. It is generally accepted that leading articles can be omitted and still be ruled correct, as in “Grapes of Wrath” or “Midsummer Night’s Dream”. However, incorrect or missing articles within a title will lead to an incorrect ruling, such as “One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest” or “Gone With Wind”. Those may be poor examples, but I can’t really think of any good ones at the moment.

As to Veteran Affairs or Veterans Affairs, I think it is usually the case that when dealing with something that has an official title, the wording must be exact, and in many cases the inclusion or exclusion of something as small as an “s” could indeed lead to an incorrect ruling.

As to the consonant/vowel distinction, the general rule is that when giving a response verbally, you don’t have to pronounce it correctly, but you must at least give something that could be a possible phonetic pronunciation of the correct spelling. Generally this means that you could change vowel sounds, but you need to use the correct consonants, otherwise what you’ve said does not appear to be the same word as the intended correct response. Without examples in front of me this is hard to explain. It often comes up in cases of foreign words, or names of famous people that someone has seen in writing many times, but rarely has heard spoken aloud.

In Final Jeopardy, the rules are similar, but the opposite is true. While your spelling can be incorrect, what you have spelled should be possible to pronounce in the same way as the intended correct response. Normally if you change a consonant, something is not going to be pronounced the same way, while changing vowels could still lead to similar pronunciation. One recent exception to this rule was when Franz Liszt was the correct FJ response, and one contestant responded with “Who is Lizt”. While she was missing a vowel, the “s” and “z” sounds in Liszt sort of blend together, so the judges likely decided that “Lizt” or “Lizst” would be accepted. I don’t know if they would have accepted “List”. They may also have accepted something like “Lieszt” or “Leeszt”, as there is probably a lot of wiggle room in dealing with vowel sounds of foreign names like this.

While to my knowledge there is no list compiled on the web of all Jeopardy! ruling precedents, there are plenty of diehard fans of the show, and many seem to have near-photographic memories of these kinds of things, so you should always feel free to ask any ruling questions on this board or at the jboard. It has been my experience that Jeopardy! fans are always more than willing to help.

We can apply some of what this commenter said to the two examples. Adding the ‘T’ to Emancipation does change the pronunciation. Similarly, the ‘A’ in Sargasso does change the pronunciation. I know that this probably won’t satisfy many people who think that the contestant should have been given the benefit of the doubt, but I hope this will shed a little more light on the process (at least perceived) that judges use to make rulings on spelling in Final Jeopardy.


So, maybe what this commenter is saying is true — maybe there aren’t any official rules. If there are official rules, they’re not readily available on the Internet. I can imagine that with what’s happened over the last week, some journalist/reporter would have likely emailed the producers of Jeopardy to ask about the official rules and I haven’t seen any articles recently about official rules. For now, I suppose this comment from a message board will have to suffice.

UPDATE: Remember Ken Jennings? Probably the most prolific Jeopardy player — ever. I came across something that Jennings said about what happened last week with EmancipTation. As you’ll see, it seems to be in line with what I found earlier on the message board:

Jeopardy! record-maker and Parade columnist Ken Jennings agrees that the ruling, however frustrating, was fair. “I feel bad for Thomas, of course,” he told Parade.com. “But the unwritten rule on Jeopardy! has always been that your Final Jeopardy answer doesn’t have to be spelled right, but it has to be the same phonetically as the right answer. If he’d spelled it ‘Emansipation’ or even ‘Immancipation,’ he probably would have been okay,” Jennings explained. “I once spelled Grenada as ‘Granada’ and Alex let it slide. But add a new consonant sound, like Thomas did, and that’s ball game.”

When Is It OK to Bend the Rules?

Screen Shot 2013-08-01 at 11.58.14 PMA couple of days ago I shared a link on Facebook to a video of a contestant (a young contestant) on Jeopardy!. The post sparked a bit of conversation, so I thought I’d give it a bit more attention. The long and short of it is that the contestant incorrectly spelled the Final Jeopardy! question. As a result of this misspelling, he was scored as having answered the question wrong, even though everyone in the building and watching at home knew that he “answered” the question correctly. It seems that because of the rules that the judges had previously set forth, they couldn’t give the kid the benefit of the doubt, even though the misspelling only included one extra ‘T’ in two words that totaled 23 letters.

To put a bit more detail on this situation: the clue (or “answer,” as it’s known in Jeopardy!), was trying to get the contestants to write down: Emancipation Proclamation. This one particularly contestant wrote down: EmancipTation Proclamation. Now, d’you think that this is close enough to give the contestant the benefit of the doubt?

Based on Alex Trebek‘s (the host) reaction to what the contestant had written down, I think that he thinks the kid should have gotten the benefit of the doubt. You can hear him stalling for time in the video as the judges make their decision. After Trebek relays the decision to the contestant (and the audience), he tries to offer a bit of reasoning for this decision. It sounds like the “closeness” of an answer is determined in advance of the show for which the questions will be used. Meaning, even though the ages of the contestants on the show are between 10 and 12, the severity with which the judges were scoring the questions could have been as if adults were playing. Is this fair? Is it fair to adjust the rules?

As I reflected on this and some of the reaction that it precipitated on Facebook, I wondered how folks would react if the scenario weren’t a game show. What if this scenario were in a school setting? If the student incorrectly misspells the word, they’ll likely get it wrong — on a spelling test. But what if the test has short answers? Do they then get points because the professor/teacher knew what they were talking about? Do they get full credit? Does the professor/teacher take off a fraction of a point?

I don’t have a definitive answer for any of these questions, but it’s certainly something to think about when we reflect on when we think it’s okay to bend the rules.