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Golden Balls – Split or Steal – Women More Likely to Steal?

November 1, 2011

What follows is a little unscientific analysis of the final stage of a British game show. At the end of the game, the jackpot is left to be decided between the remaining two contestants, who can either choose to ‘split’ or to ‘steal’. Very simple.

Both split – 50% each

You split – opponent steals – opponent wins 100%

Opponent splits – you steal – you win 100%

Both steal – nobody wins anything.

Now, the more rational among you will understand that it makes more sense to ‘steal’ from a gambling perspective. 0 or 50 per cent, versus 0 or 100 per cent. But this game is an important test of our social conventions. I mean, most people would not be so selfish and cruel…right?

After I saw the first video, as cold and callous as it is, I was interested to find as many clips as I could of these decisions and break down the results. Most videos are found on this channel:

I grant that the sample size isn’t huge. But I selected only the games where one person stole and the other split, and where the finalists were not of the same gender, so we could gauge who is more inclined to treachery when money is at stake.


This first one is for £100,000. Oh boy.

Love the ‘commentary’ on this one:

Liv Boeree (how appropriate) –


The results are that in this small sample, the men lost 7-2.

Even worse, if we break down by ethnicity (is it still legal to do that?), the black men at least managed 1-1 but the white men were thumped 6-1. Are they viewed as a bunch of suckers and easy prey? (Yes.)

I actually had an idea how to win this game. Men generally are honour bound in a way that women are not. So if your opponent is a woman, just say upfront, “I know you want to steal it all so I’m going to steal, you’re not getting a penny. Unless you choose split none of us get anything. But I promise with TV as my witness, if you let me win the jackpot I will share 50%.” (more cold blooded types may suggest a lower percentage.)

Still, I don’t want to completely erase your faith in decency, so:

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2011 20:51

    Microcosm for society right there isn’t it

  2. November 1, 2011 23:21

    Ha, I’ve just posted this on my Facebook page (yes I know, I use it mainly to pay Scrabble, honest) with the title ‘women more likely to steal’. Let’s see if I get any bites. Could be interesting.

    • November 2, 2011 01:12

      RH let me fake my righteous conspiracist indignation…”zomg you have a facebook account? dont you know the Feds watch that!!”

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