It's True: Success Breeds Success

What do you think success breeds?  If you said, more success, you're probably pretty successful.

That's the answer, all right.  If you're good enough to do something well once, you can do it again and again, says a new study.

In a study that used website-based experiments to uncover whether the age-old adage that “success breeds success” is a reality, researchers found that "early success bestowed on individuals produced significant increases in subsequent rates of success, in comparison to non-recipients of success," according to

The findings suggest that early success that is not based on merit may produce inequality in achievement among similarly qualified individuals. But the study also found that greater amounts of initial success failed to produce greater subsequent success. 

Researchers tested the success-breeds-success hypothesis by randomly allocating “successes” to individuals. 

"In each scenario, we found that early success led to more successes,” the Web site quotes lead author Arnout van de Rijt, an associate professor in Stony Brook University’s Department of Sociology and the Institute for Advanced Computational Science. “However, larger rewards bestowed by our experimentation did not proportionally increase the level of later success. This suggests that a modest initial success may be sufficient to trigger a self-propelling cascade of success in various success-breeds-success scenarios. It also suggests that philanthropists may maximize impact by granting smaller initial donations to numerous groups rather than a large donation to a single group.”
Overall, the authors reported that individuals given early support were 9 to 31 percent more likely than individuals who did not receive early support to receive follow-up support from other individuals, whether that meant for funding, an award, product endorsement, or signatures of support.


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