Colleges pay attention: How do top 10 rankings influence applications?

Ranked lists are everywhere. If you want to pick out a college, restaurant, hotel, or doctor, chances are there's a Top 10 list that can tell you which ones are the best. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, moving a mere two spots up or down a ranked list can greatly impact consumer perception.

"We tend to hear people talking about 'Top 10' or 'Top 25' lists," write authors Mathew S. Isaac (Seattle University) and Robert M. Schindler (Rutgers University, Camden). "Our impressions were that there might be an exaggerated difference in how something is perceived when it is on opposite sides of what we call category borders (for example, between 10 and 11 or 25 and 26)."

In a series of experiments, the authors showed study participants ranked lists of consecutively numbered items. They were specifically interested in finding exaggerated differences around these category borders.

As part of their research, the authors obtained data from the Graduate Management Admissions Council. This included almost half a million people who took the GMAT exam over a three-year period. They then matched exam dates with the names of the business schools where the test takers wanted their exam scores sent (this was used as an indication of the schools to which they were applying).

For each of the three years, the researchers recorded each 's rank on the annual U.S. News & World Report list. They found that if a business school's ranking passed a round-number group border (such as rising from number 12 to number 10 or from number 26 to number 24), the rank change was the best predictor of the increase in the number of overall applications to the school.

"An organization whose products and services are subject to third-party ranked lists should invest more aggressively in improving its rank if it is just on the outside looking in to a round-number category. By contrast, a similar rank-increasing effort by an organization that is already ranked number 9 or number 24 might not provide cost-effective results," the authors conclude.

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More information: Mathew S. Isaac and Robert M. Schindler. "The Top-Ten Effect: Consumers' Subjective Categorization of Ranked Lists." Journal of Consumer Research: April 2014.
Journal information: Journal of Consumer Research

Citation: Colleges pay attention: How do top 10 rankings influence applications? (2013, December 11) retrieved 19 September 2019 from
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Dec 11, 2013
Consumer research serves manufacturers not consumers. For those who recognize that The American people have lost control of what once was their government, has come the conclusion that it is necessary for the development of their children to avoid what is taught under the guise of science in the leading universities.There is a message flashing on the front panel of our time machine. It reads: Duplicate sequence in memory bank. Check years 1816, 1831, 1904, and 1949. That tells us that the on-board computer has found a similarity between what we are now viewing in the future and something that was recorded in the past. We had better check it out. EDUCATION AS A TOOL FOR HUMAN ENGINEERING
The third printout is dated 1904 and is a report issued by the General Education Board, one of the first foundations established by John D. Rockefeller, Sr.. The purpose of the foundation was to use the power of money, not to raise the level of education in America, as was widely believed at the time, \

Dec 11, 2013
The first is a warning. In the year 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Sam Kercheval in which he said:We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessities and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements,... our people ... must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give our earnings of fifteen of these to the government,... have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account; but be glad to obtain sustenance by hiring ourselves out to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers.... And this is the tendency of all human governments ... till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery.... And the forehorse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression

Dec 11, 2013
Here is the second printout. It is a political commentary and a prophesy. In the year 1831, a young Frenchman, named Alexis deTocqueville, toured the United States to prepare an official report to his government on the American prison system. His real interest,
however, was the social and political environment in the New World. He found much to admire in America but he also observedwhat he thought were the seeds of its destruction. Upon his return to France the following year, he began work on a four-volume
analysis of the strengths and weaknesses he found. His perceptivity was remarkable, and his work, entitled Democracy in America, has remained as one of the world's classic works in political science. This is the part that our computer recognized: The Americans hold that in every state the supreme power ought to emanate from the people; but when once that power is constituted, they can conceive, as it were, no limits to it, and they are ready to admit that it has the right to do

Dec 11, 2013
that it has the right to do whatever it pleases.... The idea of rights inherent in certain individuals is rapidly disappearing from the minds of men; the idea of the omnipotence and sole authority of society at large rises to fill its place....
The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind....
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood:

Dec 11, 2013
it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing....
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd....

Dec 11, 2013
Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain. By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master and then relapse into it again.
( I apologize , but the future of our country is at stake, and demands a full explanation .)

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