Matthew Effect

Trying to track down the origin of a quote this morning, I learned about something called the Matthew Effect, inspired by this verse from the Bible:

For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. – Matthew 13:12

Coined by sociologist Robert K. Merton in 1968, it describes the phenomenon where recognition and success are more likely to be bestowed upon those already distinguished, reinforcing their status. This concept, particularly relevant in science and academia, notes that well-known scientists often receive disproportionate credit for their work compared to lesser-known counterparts, even if their contributions are of equal importance.

This leads to a cycle where established figures gain increasing recognition and resources, exacerbating disparities in visibility and success. The Matthew effect extends beyond academia into fields like economics and information dissemination, reflecting the broader impact of social and professional networks on career advancement and recognition. It also highlights the challenges faced by emerging talents in gaining acknowledgment and success.

Noting here because it has so many implications, it’s something that I had a sense of but now that I have a term for, I’ll be more aware of.