The Paradox of Publicity: How Awards Can Negatively Affect the Evaluation of Quality

Forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly

60 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2013 Last revised: 12 Feb 2014

See all articles by Balazs Kovacs

Balazs Kovacs

Yale SOM

Amanda Sharkey

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Date Written: November 6, 2013


Although increases in status often lead to more favorable inferences about quality in subsequent evaluations, in this paper, we examine a setting in which an increase to an actor’s status results in less favorable quality evaluations, contrary to what much of sociological and management theory would predict. Comparing thousands of reader reviews on of 64 English-language books that either won or were short-listed for prestigious book awards between 2007 and 2011, we find that prizewinning books tend to attract more readers following the announcement of an award and that readers’ ratings of award-winning books tend to decline more precipitously following the announcement of an award relative to books that were named as finalists but did not win. We explain this surprising result, focusing on two mechanisms whereby signals of quality that tend to promote adoption can subsequently have a negative impact on evaluation. First, we propose that the audience evaluating a high-status actor or object tends to shift as a result of a public status shock, like an award, increasing in number but also in diverse tastes. We outline how this shift might translate into less favorable evaluations of quality. Second, we show that the increase in popularity that tends to follow a status shock is off-putting to some, also resulting in more negative evaluations. We show that our proposed mechanisms together explain the negative effect of status on evaluations in the context of the literary world.

Keywords: Status, Awards, Popularity, Two-stage model, Quality, Matching

Suggested Citation

Kovacs, Balazs and Sharkey, Amanda, The Paradox of Publicity: How Awards Can Negatively Affect the Evaluation of Quality (November 6, 2013). Forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly, Available at SSRN:

Balazs Kovacs

Yale SOM ( email )

493 College St
New Haven, CT CT 06520
United States

Amanda Sharkey (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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