Recency Effect and the Oscars

Call this a passing observation, if you will.

Serial position effect is the tendency of a person to recall the first and last items in a series best, and the middle items worst. People tend to begin recall with the end of the list, recalling those items best (the recency effect). Among earlier list items, the first few items are recalled more frequently than the middle items (the primacy effect)[from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_position_effect]

The term recency effect  is relevant in short term memory recall tests. But for lack of a better term, let’s ask ourselves the question “Do the Academy Award Nomination for Best Motion Picture  suffer from a recency effect?” In other words, are the nominations for Best Motion Picture biased in favour movies which are released closer to the deadline for Oscar nominations?

Some quick data-scraping from IMDB  for last 10 Oscar nominations(2005-2014) for the Best Motion Picture  yielded this dataset. The results for the 72 movies are as follows:

Number of Best Motion Picture Nominations v/s Month of Release Date of Movie
Number of Best Motion Picture Nominations v/s Month of Release Date of Movie

The graph clearly shows a recency bias for the nominations. But that doesn’t necessarily imply causality. Most probably the studios and producers are well aware of this and schedule releases of big movies which they think are good enough for an Oscar nomination in the final four months leading up to the Oscars.

UPDATE:

I was pointed out on Reddit that it might be the case that the number of movies released in those months might be more which can be a reason why the number of nominations are more.

 

Number of movies released v/s Month of release(in 2012) [from http://hollyquant.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/average-monthly-grosses-and-release-count1.jpg ]

It so happens that the number of movies is more but not proportionate to their nominations. What is more interesting is how even though the number of movies released during summer is less but they are able to gross more may be because the viewership is more during those months because of the vacations.

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