Is there a 
 Symbolic Effect 
 of Social Status on Performance? Exploring Causal Evidence and Underlying Mechanisms

Research on status has focused primarily on performance advantages that are generated by signaling, a mechanism through which audiences perceive the quality of a high-status actor to be higher when quality is uncertain. However, as an inherently scarce social resource, status may generate advantages independent from audiences’ quality perceptions, through a symbolic mechanism. Symbolic advantages, by virtue of being associated with prestige and social esteem, can generate value for a high-status actor in ways that can translate to higher performance. However, distinguishing such symbolic advantages from signaling advantages – and identifying the related mechanisms – has been hindered by theoretical and empirical hurdles. We overcome these hurdles by proposing a status-based performance production model that distinguishes signaling advantages from the symbolic effect of status on performance to consider its impact on the level of inputs secured, in terms of access to opportunities, and productivity, in terms of output for a given level of input. Comparing players’ performance before and after their participation in the National Basketball Association All-Star Game allows us to empirically identify a positive causal effect of symbolic status advantages on performance – while ruling out signaling advantages – but the effect is short lived.

Should you want to attend this talk, please register at: by Tuesday 17th noon. We will order a free sandwich for you (please mention any dietary preference) and will send you a copy of the paper.