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High on the List

People are more likely to cite studies that appear at the top of a list, NPR's Morning Edition reports.

The National Bureau of Economic Research sends out a weekly email to some 23,000 people that highlights recent papers that came out in the field, but the list isn't in any sort of importance, NPR says.

Ina Ganguli, an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her colleagues analyzed these emails and found that papers mentioned high on those weekly lists are more likely to be read.

"Just by chance, if your study happened to be the first one listed, boom, you get clicked on a lot, you get downloaded a lot, you get a lot of attention," NPR's Shankar Vedantam says.

This primacy effect then influences the articles that researchers then cited, Ganguli and her colleagues further found. As citation rate is often a measure of the quality of someone's work, this could influence someone's career path.

"We see a 27 percent increase in citations, and what this means is that people are then subsequently citing this research more in their own work because this paper was listed first," Ganguli tells NPR. "So this ordering is leading to this almost 30 percent increase in the attention that people are giving to these papers."