The Traitors is like three weeks in the Gaeltacht - Lynette Fay

The hit TV show teaches us a lot about how people operate

The second series of The Traitors is currently airing on BBC One
The psychology at play in The Traitors is key to its success (Mark Mainz/Studio Lambert/BBC/PA)

I was one of the millions who were sucked in to the frenzy of The Traitors. I was grateful for the distraction to get me through what felt like the longest January of my life.

I didn’t think that I would invest time in reality TV ever again. I confess to loving Big Brother, Fame Academy and The X Factor over 20 years ago but recently I’ve found the format boring and predictable.

But The Traitors was like Big Brother with purpose. There was a game to play for a significant prize pot, and the competitors had to work together to earn the money. Reality television got a much needed shot in the arm.

The idea for the series was first hatched in 2014 by Dutch director. He came up with the idea after reading a 17th century book which centred around the idea of a mutiny. He set out to re-create mutiny in an intense bubble where people didn’t trust each other.

He said that the reason why the series was rejected so many times was because the traitors are revealed at the very beginning of the game. The perception was that there was no jeopardy in such a game. But it turns out that if the casting was done well, the psychology of human behaviour brought the jeopardy.

Claudia Winkleman hosts The Traitors
Host Claudia Winkleman is the real star of The Traitors

In the six years it has taken to get The Traitors to air, social media has exploded. We are bombarded with information, opinions, our very thoughts, served up to us on a timeline. Is this affecting our ability to know our own mind and tune in to our gut instinct? Perhaps. This might be a contributing factor to the success of the show.

Getting the right mix of people in this game is key to the success of the social experiment. The first series was broadcast in the Netherlands and featured celebrities. The UK version was the first to cast members of the public.

We love to people watch. This series allowed us to watch people and work out what they were thinking.

In series one, I loved Amanda who was chosen as one of the Traitors. At one point, I thought that she had a good chance of winning the whole competition because of her ability to be a friend to everyone, and to not get involved in gossip. She sat back and let the people around her come up with the theories and do the talking. In the end, she was set upon by one of her fellow Traitors.

Without doubt our Diane was the star of this second series. I really enjoyed watching the ways in which the older women engaged with the game. Diane was straight shooting, but it amazed me how she was so sure that she knew who the Traitors were when she was completely wrong.

Self-belief to some appears as arrogance to others. The attraction of the game is its subjectivity and how the behaviour and motives of the players are perceived.

In the first few episodes, I was intrigued by the round table discussion. The thinking of the stronger personalities, once articulated was followed by most of the group. This came very predictable for a couple of episodes but thankfully, some players grew in confidence and shook up the thinking and subsequently the voting pattern. The intensity of how the game is played might have influence thought processes.

The Traitors (Studio Lambert)
The Traitors (Studio Lambert) (Paul Chappells/BBC/Studio Lambert/Paul Chappells)

I liken the intensity to the Gaeltacht experience where you walk into a house, a college of strangers, and by the end of three weeks, you have loved, made and lost friends, missed home and doubted yourself over and over again.

As I get older, I believe that psychology should be taught in school so that when young people go out into the world they have a better chance of understanding how people operate. It’s a basic life skill.

Baby faced Harry might have won the prize pot, but Claudia Winkleman wins everything when it comes to the Traitors. She is the perfect host - funny and charming, but strict when she had to be. She deserves all the awards – for her presenting and her perfect wardrobe.

I predict that the Traitors’ cloaks and the pall bearer costume will be a replicated at Halloween. While we wait for the next series, I will be stocking up on my own supply of capes and fingerless gloves.