Penn Study Examines How Social Ties Influence Awards Given by Peers or Critics

When it comes to winning Oscars and other awards to gain recognition and success in Hollywood, who you know matters just as much as who is judging, according to a new University of Pennsylvania collaborative study.

“Sociological theory suggests that the process of ‘making it’ in any field depends not only on individual merit but also on the kind of audience that makes the judgments,” said co-author Paul D. Allison, a sociology professor at Penn. “Specifically, peers are more likely to favor award candidates who are highly embedded in the field, whereas critics will not show such favoritism.” 

Titled, “Insiders, Outsiders, and the Struggle for Consecration in Cultural Fields: A Core-Periphery Perspective,” the study by Allison and his co-researchers Gino Cattani, of New York University, and Simone Ferriani, of the University of Bologna, is scheduled to appear in the April issue of the American Sociological Review.  The article has already been published online.

Film awards generally fall into two categories: those given by peers actively engaged in making movies and those given by critics who review movies for newspapers, magazines or other media outlets.

The research showed that awards given by peers more often go to people who are heavily embedded in the “core” of the social network. These core members have many social ties to other filmmakers.

Critics, on the other hand, show no favoritism toward core members and may even prefer those on the periphery of the industry.

“These patterns persisted even after taking into account other factors that influence who gets awards,” Allison said.

The researchers used data from the Internet Movie Database and Alan Goble Film Index covering many different awards and nominations given to actors, directors, screenwriters and others between 1992 and 2004.

While the study focused on the film industry, the researchers believe their findings may be useful outside of Hollywood.




Story Photo