A paper by Dan Halgin, Steve Borgatti, Ajay Mehra, and Scott Soltis entitled "Audience perceptions of high-status ties and network advantage: The market for coaching jobs in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (2000–2011)" was recently selected as one of the top 3 Best Papers of 2020 at the Journal of Organizational Behavior.
SUMMARY: Social ties with high-status others can be a potent signal of an individual's underlying quality and future promise. Individuals in competitive markets, therefore, have an incentive to publicly claim connections to high-status others. However, cognitive limitations and biases can make social network connections difficult for observers to reliably discern, and claims to high-status ties can go unrecognized by the audience. Our core contention is that claims to high-status affiliation are advantageous only when the audience recognizes the claim—unrecognized claims, like unreliable signals, do not deliver advantage and can backfire. Further, we draw on the literature on imprinting and develop arguments for why some people are more likely to make claims to high-status ties and why some claims to high-status ties are more likely than others to be recognized by the audience. We test our arguments with data from the market for head coaching jobs in NCAA basketball (2000–2011). Our study contributes to the sparse literature on how social network ties that exist in the minds of third-party observers influence individual attainment in market settings; and it offers new insights into how imprinting processes shape the perception and use of high-status network ties.