Game of Thrones and The Peltzman Effect


While listening to an old episode of Freakonomics, I learned about The Peltzman Effect, which asserts that when things become safer, we compensate by taking more risks-- and while the theory has never been proven exactly as Peltzman stated it, that safety features and regulations are completely useless and even counterproductive, there is no question that the effect is real, just not as powerful as Peltzman envisioned; The Peltzman Effect certainly rears its ugly head in American football: helmets became safer and more shock resistant, and so players started using their head to initiate tackles (you don't see rugby players doing this very often) and though there are less fractured skulls, there are more concussions and brain trauma; you can also see the Peltzman Effect at work in Game of Thrones . . . two incidents come to mind, both having to do with heavy armour and the perceived safety that it affords;

1) when Bronn defeats Ser Varis Egan in Tyrion's first trial by combat; Bronn is wearing light leather armour and Ser Vardis has on heavy plate mail and carries a giant shield; Bronn takes few risks and generally keeps out of range-- he lets Ser Vardis exhaust himself with risky swings of his giant sword, and then carefully pokes and slices at him until he falls apart;

2) when Oberyn nearly kills The Mountain in Tyrion's second trial by combat; again Oberyn wears a light leather outfit and dances out of range, taking few risks with his long-handled spear, and if he wouldn't have let his guard down during his vengeful celebration, then he would have survived the battle instead of dying in the grossest manner possible . . . Kids in the Hall style!

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