Being friends with an award juror can increase a person's chance of being nominated but decrease their chances of being selected as the victor, according to a study. The Oscars, the Grammys, and even the Nobel Prize, all peer-judged competitions, are often criticised for the decisions of their jurors. Some people go as far as making accusations of bias, partisanship and even cronyism. Researchers, including those from City University London in the UK, analysed how social relationships affect reward allocation choices in peer-based evaluative settings.
Combining statistical analysis of eight years' of decision making data from the most prestigious Norwegian advertising industry competition with industry member interviews, researchers sought to understand how relationships between jurors and entrants affect competition results. The study, published in the Academy of Management Journal, found that while all three dynamics can improve a candidate's chance of receiving an honourable mention, only reciprocity boosts their chances of being the victor.
"Having a direct tie to, or being a part of the same clique as, an award juror can help candidates be shortlisted or nominated but then actually prevent them winning," said Simone Ferriani from Cass Business School in the UK. "This, we believe, is because people in charge of granting prestigious honours may be driven by self-serving relational interests, as much as the genuine desire to signal their moral integrity and deflect potential inauthenticity concerns away," Ferriani said.
"Because awards are tremendous drivers of value -- film festival awards may increase box office sales, literary prizes can open doors to exclusive publishers and academic awards may secure more research grants -- understanding how relationships influence the way they are allocated is particularly important, especially amidst calls for transparency in public life.
"These findings should invite some healthy cynicism among those who still have unconditional faith in the universalistic principles that are supposed to inspire meritocratic institutions, but should also come as hopeful news to those who have long lost that faith," Ferriani said.