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Noah Askin, Matthew S. Bothner, and Wonjae Lee

Stratification within small groups is virtually inevitable. Understanding the precise mechanisms by which it occurs and the nature of its consequences is an important sociological endeavor. Individuals’ pre-existing qualities, as well as advantages emerging from intra-group interactions, affect the flows of respect and deference accruing to each member of a group. Differences in these flows in turn create a hierarchy. In this article, we first discuss foundational research on the causes and consequences of stratification before turning to more current trends. We focus on the ways in which status, the primary determinant of one’s location in a group’s hierarchy, is created and maintained or lost. We discuss the Matthew Effect—a process by which high-status group members receive disproportionate credit for their contributions, and also more easily maintain their status. We also address the circumstances and activities that can curb the Matthew Effect. We then move to current research, which centers on two main concepts: first, we consider peer effects, discussing the various means by which an individual’s closest peers shape his or her status; second, we take a broader perspective by examining small groups as open systems. This section considers how a group’s external environment, including other nearby groups, affects the level and stability of within-group stratification. We emphasize key issues and implications for future research on these topics.

Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences (2015)

Noah S. Askin and Matthew S. Bothner

Individual outcomes in tournaments for status result not only from participants’ own qualities and behaviors, but also from those of their most proximate peers. In this article, we take an alter-centric view of status dynamics, examining the effect of peers’ perceived quality on future changes in a focal organization’s status. Utilizing the yearly tournaments created by U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of national colleges and universities, two competing predictions are investigated. The first is that peer’ advances in perceived quality impair the future status of a focal school, reflecting inter-school competition for finite resources and rewards. The second is that peers’ improvements incite a focal school to make cosmetic or material adjustments, leading to an increase in its status. Peers are defined in two ways: by proximity in the prior iteration of the tournament and by network-based structural equivalence. Using fixed effects models predicting future changes in annual USN ranks, we observe opposing forces at work, depending on the type of peer exerting influence. When peers identified by prior rank proximity improve in perceived quality, they exert status-eroding effects on a focal school. Conversely, when structurally equivalent peers in the college-applicant market show improvement, the focal school subsequently increases in status. We examine the mechanisms responsible for this divergence by focusing on the bases of each type of peer-affiliation, presenting interaction effects that highlight the contextual conditions that shape the influence of peers on status change. Future directions for research on peer effects and status are discussed.

Wesley R. Hartmann, Puneet Manchanda, Harikesh Nair, Matthew S. Bothner, Peter Dodds, David Godes, Kartik Hosanagar, and Catherine Tucker

Social interactions occur when agents in a network affect other agents’ choices directly, as opposed to via the intermediation of markets. The study of such interactions and the resultant outcomes has long been an area of interest across a wide variety of social sciences. With the advent of electronic media that facilitate and record such interactions, this interest has grown sharply in the business world as well. In this paper, we provide a brief summary of what is known so far, discuss the main challenges for researchers interested in this area, and provide a common vocabulary that will hopefully engender future (cross disciplinary) research. The paper considers the challenges of distinguishing actual causal social interactions from other phenomena that may lead to a false inference of causality. Further, we distinguish between two broadly defined types of social interactions that relate to how strongly interactions spread through a network. We also provide a very selective review of how insights from other disciplines can improve and inform modeling choices. Finally, we discuss how models of social interaction can be used to provide guidelines for marketing policy and conclude with thoughts on future research directions.

Marketing Letters, 19 (2008): 287–304

Matthew S. Bothner, Jeong-han Kang, and Toby E. Stuart

This article uses National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) races to examine how competitive crowding affects the risk-taking conduct of actors in a tournament. We develop three claims: (1) crowding from below, which measures the number of competitors capable of surpassing a given actor in a tournament-based contest, predisposes that actor to take risks; (2) as a determinant of risky conduct, crowding from below has a stronger influence than crowding from above, which captures the opportunity to advance in rank; and (3) the effect of crowding from below is strongest after the rank ordering of the actors in a tournament becomes relatively stable, which focuses contestants’ attention on proximately ranked competitors. Using panel data on NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series from 1990 through 2003, we model the probability that a driver crashes his car in a race. Findings show that drivers crash their vehicles with greater frequency when their positions are increasingly at risk of displacement by their nearby, lower-ranked counterparts; the effect of crowding from below exceeds that of crowding from above; and the effect of crowding by lower-ranked contestants is greatest when there is relatively little race-to-race change in the rank ordering of drivers.

Administrative Science Quarterly, 52 (2007): 208-247

Matthew S. Bothner

This article examines the effect of relative size on rates of firm growth. Although a number of prior studies have sought to pinpoint the effect of firm size on future growth, such efforts have been focused almost exclusively on absolute size, thereby neglecting the ways in which a firm’s scale advantages with respect to its competitors may independently determine its performance. This study extends recent work in network analysis, strategy and organizational ecology by developing a localized measure of relative size and showing that relative size has a strong positive effect on future growth, net of absolute size. Implications for future research are discussed.

Industrial and Corporate Change, 14 (2005): 617-638

Matthew S. Bothner

When is a social actor most strongly influenced by its peers? This article addresses this question by clarifying when computer firms were most strongly affected by the choices of their structurally equiv- alent rivals to adopt a well-known technology: Intel’s sixth-gener- ation processor. The core hypothesis is that the effect of adoptions by structurally equivalent firms increases with the competitive pres- sure that a focal firm faces in its market position. The results show that a chosen firm is most strongly influenced by comparable others when it faces scale-based competition and is diversified. The im- plications of this study are twofold: a social actor’s sensitivity to the conduct of others may depend not only on its place in a hierarchy but also on the nature of its ties to an external audience; and a contingent theory of social influence may be necessary to charac- terize diffusion processes correctly, particularly when external and time-varying nonnetwork factors have significant effects.

American Journal of Sociology, 108 (2003): 1175–1210