Talk:Matthew effect

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Lack of dissent[edit]

It seems like someone should be cited here who would dispute "the poor get poorer" - I was not under the impression this was a majority view in economics.

Thomblake (talk) 22:09, 7 May 2009 (UTC)

You seem to be objecting to the application to wealth. First of all, the article is explaining a theory, not vouching for its validity. Second and more importantly, Merton was not addressing wealth even though this is the facial meaning of Matthew 25:29. Rather he was using it as a metaphor to discuss fame and this remains the primary meaning of "Matthew Effect" in sociology as can be seen by reading the examples section of the page. I have clarified the article on this point and struck the NPOV accordingly. --Ghrossman (talk) 01:33, 31 March 2012 (UTC)

"this is the facial meaning of Matthew 25:29" - no, no, no. The meaning of Matthew is quite obviously spiritual, a transparent promise to renumerate believers in afterlife. Kotika98 (talk) 03:43, 6 January 2013 (UTC)

Repeat of bible passage[edit]

Obviously the repetition of the bible passage under the example of Kolmogorov and Solomonoff (sorry, should have put Solomonoff first!) should be deleted, but I think the last part of it ("And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth") should be included. Trouble is, it appears to come from a different bible version from the quote in the intro, and it isn't credited to a particular version. So I think someone with a King James at hand should add the King James version of this last bit (which I think is relevant) to the quote in the intro and delete the quote in the example. Any takers?

Would also like to link an article on the Parker Effect, which is when you have glasses in your pocket and you lean over to pick something up and the glasses fall out.  :) --Matthew Parker (talk) 12:43, 24 October 2008 (UTC)

"Observed many times"[edit]

Statements are apparently asserted as fact: "a phenomenon that has been observed many, many times in research"; etc. [[User:Poccil|Peter O. (Talk)]] 04:25, Oct 29, 2004 (UTC)

So if I understand well, you don't like History of science abounds in scientists who weren't attributed the cre"dit they deserve. What about the streptomycin story itself ? Schutz 04:31, 29 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Both sentences above have been modified or removed, and I have added a reference on K. Stanovich's research. I have also re-added the example on streptomycin since no one has commented on it, and it still looks like a good illustration to me. Do you think there is still a NPOV problem ? If not, I will remove the tag in a few days. Schutz 22:54, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
Its been a few months. Removing tag. -- ShinmaWa(talk) 21:20, 22 January 2006 (UTC)

Split article[edit]

I would not recommend splitting the article since that would leave many small and insignificant articles. Taken as a whole, the article is more worthwhile. Fmccown 12:25, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

I also disagree with splitting the article; it is more useful as it is. Seeing as the proposed splitting has produced little debate over the last several months and no one has taken the initiative to actually split it, I am removing the tag. Robert K S 09:55, 20 August 2006 (UTC)

von Neumann treated unfairly[edit]

Hello Robert,

I object to your using John von Neumann as a example of the Matthew effect. The article currently says "his influential publications were sometimes restatements of the ideas of his collaborators." You seem to be making a blanket statement that, in all of the dozen or so areas in which von Neumann made major contributions, he was only rehasing the ideas of other people. This simply is not true.

For example, the basic axioms of set theory are called the "von Neumann–Bernays–Gödel" axioms; the work of the first two people came much after von Neumann wrote his one paper (the article on this in Wikpaedia is correct). In fact, with a few exceptions, von Neumann only had time to write one or two papers in each of the many areas that he studied. Consequently, it is more often von Neumann's work that is attributed to others than the other way around.

As regards the two specific examples in the article:

On game theory, I believe it is unchallenged that the explanation of economic behevior in terms of games was original to von Neumann and Morganstern in 1944. On this point you may wish to read the banquet speech by the Nobel prize winners in economics [1] who was speaking for all three of the 1994 winners. Von Neumann's first paper on games was actually written long before the book, in 1926. There had been some efforts by a French mathematician to formulate a theory of games before that, but the poor fellow conjectured it would not be possible to devise a theory of optimal strategies, which of course was von Neumann's other contribution besides the connection to economics.

On the first draft report, the brilliance of it was that von Neumann supplied a high-level description of the logical design, independent of any particular hardware implementation. In fact, he specifically took pains to avoid mentioning anyone's hardware. At the time von Neumann was in contact with everyone working in the general area of computing: besides Mauchly and Eckert this included Norbert Wiener (who was working on cybernetics) and Howard Aiken (who was building the Havard machines). All of these people could have written something, but none of them did. As Konrad Zuse [2] pointed out, "The genius of von Neumann is that he selected out of a lot of possibilities what was really important."

Best, -- Joe



[2] Zuse, K. S., Computerarchitektur aus damaliger und heutiger Sicht, ETH report, 1992. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Joseph Grcar (talk • contribs) 02:11, 7 March 2007 (UTC).

Joseph Grcar 16:44, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

von Neumann treated unfairly, cont[edit]

Hi Joe, thanks for your message.

First off, welcome to Wikipedia, and don't forget to sign your comments to talk pages with four tildes (~~~~).

I will try to reword the offending text so that it is attributed and properly cited, as it should be on Wikipedia, and hopefully this will alleviate your objections. Unfortunately, this may take some time, as I am out of the country and away from my library of notes and resources on this subject.

The only remark you made that seems certainly wrong to me is the bit about "all of these people could have written something, but none of them did", which seems wrong on both counts. It neglects that Mauchly and Eckert were working on a secret project and could not have published until the ENIAC's unveiling. It also neglects that they did write internal disclosures, including Eckert's on a magnetic calculator which predates von Neumann's involvement and which most will admit intimates the stored-program concept made explicit in the First Draft. This disclosure was entered into the exhibit evidence in HvSR. To my mind, an implementation description implies a logical design but the reverse is not the case. "All of these people could have written something" becomes "not all of these people could/should have written something, not even von Neumann" and "but none of them did" becomes "but anything they wrote was overshadowed by sheer readership numbers of the First Draft."

You also say that "he specifically took pains to avoid mentioning anyone's hardware", but a read of the text clearly shows that he was convinced by the success of the ENIAC's engineering that electromechanical implementations were passée ("It is clear that a very high speed computing device should ideally have vacuum tube elements"--he further goes on to talk about delay times for electronic components) and that cathode ray tube memories were going to be improvements over Eckert's ideas for high-speed serial access memories using acoustic delay lines ("The solution to which we allude must be sought along the lines of the iconoscope. This device in its developed form remembers the state of 400 x 500 separate points..."). Indeed, von Neumann held out for the development of cathode tube memories for his IAS machine, whereas the EMCC developers gave up their experiments with them and went ahead with mercury delay lines.

As to Norbert Weiner, speaking practically, he had nothing to do with the development of computing machines, and Mauchly and Eckert were, IIRC, in contact with Aiken and Stibitz and so von Neumann had no particular leg-up on them as far as connections to other computing developments went. Indeed it was von Neumann who was the lucky one to have been introduced to the Moore School group, as Goldstine was always fond of recounting. While von Neumann probably would have found out about it sooner or later, Goldstine's admiration for him probably had probably no small part in von Neumann being invited to consult for the EDVAC.

Cheers, thanks, and good work. Robert K S 15:56, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

expand intro please[edit]

As a reader, this article didn't explain the overall concept to me as well as it might. Maybe it would help to restate the Biblical passage in modern language and explain its implication. ike9898 15:43, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

positive feedback[edit]

I added this term to the 'see also' list. Does anyone else see the Matthew effect as an instance of a positive feedback loop? - kostmo 01:31, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

The "Social policy" definition seems to fit the idea the least (the rich are not really enriching themselves, bootstrap-style, because their tax dollars are distributed), but yes, operationally, the Matthew effect does behave with the characteristics of a positive feedback system. I think it's a reasonable "See also". Robert K S 07:32, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

I take issue with an unsourced claim[edit]

"Social policy In social policy the term was introduced by Herman Deleeck. It refers to the phenomenon, widely observed across advanced welfare states, that the middle classes tend to be the main beneficiaries of social benefits and services, even if these are primarily targeted at the poor.[citation needed]"


Says who? To me this reads like somebody judging the failure of America's incomplete welfare system (which I will concede HAS been shown to help the high middle class and high income earners much more than the low income earners) and extrapolating those failures onto the rest of the Western world (many of which are far more advanced and free of laissez faire free market rhetoric, which hopefully Obama will fix). I mean to begin with, are we talking about workfare or welfare? It's certainly plausible that workfare might do this, but then, only 3 countries in the world use workfare to my knowledge (and two of them - Australia and Canada - have a low Gini coefficient and some of the highest HDI in the world, so again, America is the odd one out).

I propose this part of the article be deleted, as I can't see it being sourced any time soon, and its claims are dubious at best. (talk) 10:18, 13 October 2008 (UTC)

Looking through the article's history, I see that this section has been unsourced since it was added, by an anonymous IP who made no other edits, back in 2005. I have therefore removed it. Terraxos (talk) 01:46, 22 October 2008 (UTC)

What am I missing?[edit]

The Matthew effect is said to be the phenomenon that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer; and then the rest of the article is a pile of claims about misattribution, which is a totally different phenomenon. Comet Tuttle (talk) 18:34, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

Yeah, I am totally with you... It makes no sense at all. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:58, 12 July 2010 (UTC)
Yup, I don't get it either. I've removed the quotations to here. They seem to be completely missing the point of the article. Or am I completely missing the point? --PLUMBAGO 16:12, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

Witty or clever quotations are often attached to famous individuals, to the detriment of the reputation of their actual authors. For example:

  • "Only the dead have seen the end of war," is often attributed to Plato. In fact, George Santayana wrote it, and researchers have been unable to find the quote in any of Plato's dialogues.[1]
  • "The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash," was not said by Winston Churchill, but by his personal secretary Anthony Montague.[citation needed]
  • Charles Manson did not say "I'm the devil, I'm here to do the devil's business.", his associate Charles "Tex" Watson did.[citation needed]
  • Bill Gates never said "Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one", Charles J. Sykes did.[2]
  • Otto von Bismarck is sometimes said to have said "To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.", but the earliest such quotation is by John Godfrey Saxe, who said in 1869, "Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made."[citation needed]
  • George W. Bush did not originate the phrase "...the terrorists have won" or "...then the terrorists win." It derives from the statements of Frank Pierson after he refused to cancel the Academy Awards: "If we give in to fear, if we aren't able to do these simple and ordinary things, the terrorists have won the war."[citation needed]
  • Pierre Choderlos de Laclos did not write "Revenge is a dish best served cold", in Les Liaisons Dangereuses; neither did it originate in Star Trek or The Godfather. Its first known appearance in print is in Eugène Sue's 1841 French potboiler novel Mathilde.[citation needed]
  • The instrumentalist interpretation of quantum mechanics is often summarized by the maxim "Shut up and calculate!".[citation needed] While this slogan is sometimes attributed to Paul Dirac or Richard Feynman, it is in fact due to David Mermin, as he discussed in depth in a Physics Today article in 2004.[3]
  • Mark Twain credited Benjamin Disraeli as the source of the quote "lies, damned lies, and statistics". However, the phrase is not present in any of Disraeli's works and the earliest known appearances occurred years after his death. Currently, the best available evidence points to Englishman Charles Wentworth Dilke as the most likely originator of the phrase.[citation needed]
  • The quotation "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing" although often attributed to Edmund Burke does not occur in his works or recorded speeches. It first appeared in the 14th edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (1968), which incorrectly sourced it to a letter that did not in fact contain the quote.[4]

Matthew effect is itself a Matthew effect[edit]

Ironically, the Matthew effect itself seems to be a kind of Matthew effect. Calling it the "Matthew effect" conveys the impression that it is attributed to Matthew, who has little to do with its discovery. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:19, 8 October 2011 (UTC)


The entire "examples" section appears to be POV and, or, OR - according to wiki policies, it is open for removal.Avaya1 (talk) 21:09, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

I can't speak to all of them, but at least some of the examples refer to analyses that the scholarly sources analyze as involving the Matthew Effect, not merely incidents that a Wikipedia contributor is so interpreting. As such they don't count as original research. I added the Barabasi cite to one issue and added another example with cites (Salganik, Sorenson). However I left the original research flag as it might describe some of the other examples --Ghrossman (talk) 01:33, 31 March 2012 (UTC)

Merge with Matthew effect (education)[edit]

This article has a merge tag on it, but I can't see any discussion so I'm starting one. The "Education" section of this article was split into a separate article (Matthew effect (education)) in October 2010, with this edit. There was no reason for this split, in my view. There obviously aren't any size concerns, and I think the two concepts are sufficiently similar to be set out in the same article. I agree with whoever added the merge tag that the articles ought to be merged back together. DoctorKubla (talk) 17:56, 20 December 2012 (UTC)

Merge (yes)[edit]

A merge makes sense, unless there is truly distinctive content on the academic side. As it is, this article is mistitled, since it's referring to academia (research publication), as opposed to education.

For example, an article on Consequences of the Matthew effect in academia might be a better topic for this article. rhyre (talk) 06:19, 12 April 2013 (UTC)


The education page does not add anything to the subject matter. Merge it. There doesn't need to be two. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:11, 25 May 2013 (UTC)

Lorentz vs Lorenz[edit]

There is a curious example in physics, where the gauge condition ∂.A = 0 is often mistakenly called as Hendrik Lorentz condition even though it was Ludvig Lorenz. There is no controversy about this, but Lorentz is more famous and many people do this unknowingly. Says Wikipedia article about Gauge fixing :

Neither was the first to use it in calculations; it was introduced in 1888 by George F. FitzGerald. 

Sometimes it is also called Landau gauge. I wander if this humorous example of Matthew effect is worthwhile addition to this article, to lighten the mood of the battle for credit a bit. Kotika98 (talk) 04:01, 6 January 2013 (UTC)


Is there a particular reason the KJV version of the verse is given? The archaic language is a bit hard to understand. Should we replace it with or add a modern version? --Euniana/Talk 23:29, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

  1. ^
  2. ^ "Rules Kids Won't Learn in School". Retrieved 2010-05-09. 
  3. ^ Mermin, David (05/2004). "Could Feynman Have Said This?". Physics Today. Retrieved 2010-05-09.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Origins of the triumph-of-evil quote:
    • William Safire (1980-03-09). "The triumph of evil". New York Times. pp. SM2. 
    • William Safire (1981-04-05). "Standing corrected". New York Times Magazine. p. 16. 
    • Paul F. Boller; John George (1990). They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195064690. 
    • Martin Porter (2002). "Four principles of quotation". Retrieved 2008-06-21.