From loan applications to sales pitches to job applications, life is loaded with competition. Have you wondered whether it’s better to be first or last in line–to be evaluated? A recent study from The Wharton School and Harvard Business School shows that earlier is better. People who do ratings tend to want equal numbers of positive and negative results. At the head of the line, you lock in a fairer consideration; those reviewed after you may suffer if the reviewer is subconsciously seeking to cast someone in a negative light in order to balance the tally. You are given a positive review? The applicant after you is more likely to receive a negative review–even when their qualifications are considered.
The phenomenon is something called "narrow bracketing," where you are not necessarily compared to the whole pool of applicants or everyone being evaluated, but, instead, you are compared to the people who come in on the same day or in the same time frame. It creates a bias based on what time of the day or in what order you show up to be evaluated. It's an error in judgment, and it can happen in any evaluation situation. So that early-bird adage rings true. Here's to hoping you are the one who catches the worm.