What is the Matthew Effect in Psychology

Various analyzes, carried out on a large scale in baseball and soccer, show that a statistically very high percentage of excellent players (youth nationals, professionals) were born in the first months of the year. Also the representative of Spain world champion 2010 and of Europe in 2008 and 2012 follows this strange rule: of the twenty-three athletes who often formed part of the Spanish team in those fantastic eight years, thirteen were born in the first five months of the year; none in October, one in November and one in December. If we don't believe in astrology, there must be another explanation, and it's not very difficult to identify: they just enjoy what's called a "cumulative advantage." In this article, we will discover togetherwhat is the Matthew effect in psychology, with some examples to understand it even better.

The matte effect, a psychological concept

What is the Matthew effect? With the term San Mateo effect (or Matthew effect, in English Matthew effect), in sociology, a process is indicated by which, in certain situations, the new resources that are made available are distributed among the participants in proportion to what they already have. The term was coined in 1968 by the sociologist Robert K. Merton, who in collaboration with his students and his second wife, the sociologist Harriet Zuckerman, discovered this expression to indicate, within scientific communities, a cumulative effect that tends to reward exponentially to those who already occupy a privileged role.

He referred to a passage in the Gospel according to Matthew, in which it is written: “For whoever has, more will be given, and he will be in abundance; but from those who do not have, what they have will also be taken from them ». This concept is present several times also in the other two synoptic Gospels, at the end of the parable of the talents (in Matthew and Luke), and of the sower (in Mark and Luke).

Despite being born to study this phenomenon in the field of the sociology of science, the term "Matthew effect" is also used to explain the proportional distribution of resources in the field of learning sciences and science of learning. networks. Currently, it is widely applied within the framework of the dynamics that regulate the dissemination of media content on social networks and the laws that determine the construction of a greater or little social reputation.

Let's look at examples of the Matthew effect in science, in sports, in school and in the networks.

The Matthew effect in the sociology of science

Merton used this term in his studies to describe the mechanisms through which privileges and remuneration are granted within scientific communities, such as greater ease of publication and the obtaining of prestigious commissions. Merton and his students noted that scientists who achieve success in the early years of their careers (for example, publishing an article in a well-known journal, or in collaboration with another famous author), later find it much easier to publish, and therefore more credibility and success of their own theories, quality equality and any other factor.

This effect is often considered among cases of inequality in the recognition of value in the communication of scientific results, which influences the development of individual careers, since the initial success produces distribution effects that are not proportional to the capacities real ones demonstrated throughout the professional career.

The Matthew effect in sports

Another example of the Mateo effect that makes him much more understanding is that which occurs in sports. Those born in the first months of the year, at the beginning of their sports training, are physically more mature; In a child of six years, eight or nine months can make a difference, and in the additional life time at his disposal it is also possible that a father who is passionate about sports has unknowingly trained his son more, making him play sporadically with a ball on the weekend. As they are more mature, they receive more attention than coaches and parents, they are chosen to participate in the youth teams, they are inserted in the team of the greatest, they feel more capable and motivated.

All this excess training and motivation leads them to train with more dedication and attention, making them progressively better than others. Creating a vicious cycle that re-fuels their enthusiasm (and that of coaches and parents) and yielding great benefit over the years.

The Matthew effect at school

In the field of education, the Matthew effect should indicate the proportional relationship between the achievement of reading ability at an early age and future success in acquiring additional cognitive skills. The term was first used in this field by researchers Walber and Tsai in 1983, but it was adopted by psychologist Keith Stanovich to describe the observation of the phenomenon that children who learn reading skills early tend to have advantage in acquiring more skills in the future, whereas difficulties in learning to read in the third or fourth year of school education often lead to lifelong problems in acquiring additional skills.

The Matthew effect in the science of networks

In the field of network science, the Saint Matthew effect is generally used to explain how nodes with multiple connections tend to attract new connections by increasing their connectivity and attractiveness proportionally. This trend explains, therefore, the formation and structure of some nodes in networks as large as the Internet. At the birth of the Web, in fact, information was used in a chaotic way, with the increase in the amount of information, search engines began to reorder content following a very rational scheme. The structuring of information on the network is organized according to the logic of the San Mateo effect: the most clicked pages are those that are placed in the first positions in the search.

The Matilda effect

In 1993, the historian of science Margaret Rossiter coined the expression "Matilda effect" (in honor of the activist Matilda J. Gage), as a corollary of the Matthew effect, to denounce the social situation of women of science, who receive less credit and recognition for his work than his male colleagues. The Matilda Effect has been assimilated to the Matthew Effect, taking into consideration not the lesser or greater notoriety of a scientist but his being a woman or a man. Thus, a phenomenon has been defined by which, especially in the scientific field, the result of the research work carried out by a woman is attributed totally or partially to a man.