Asymmetries in Experiential and Vicarious Feedback: Lessons from the Hiring and Firing of Baseball Managers

David Strang, Kelly Patterson

Sociological Science, May 12, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a13

We examine experiential and vicarious feedback in the hiring and firing of baseball managers. Realized outcomes play a large role in both decisions; the probability that a manager will be fired is a function of the team’s win–loss record, and a manager is quicker to be rehired if his teams had won more in the past. There are substantial asymmetries, however, in the fine structure of the two feedback functions. The rate at which managers are fired is powerfully shaped by recent outcomes, falls with success and rises with failure, and adjusts for history-based expectations. By contrast, hiring reflects a longer-term perspective that emphasizes outcomes over the manager’s career as well as the most recent campaign, rewards success but does not penalize failure, and exhibits no adjustment for historical expectations. We explain these asymmetries in terms of the disparate displays of rationality that organizations enact in response to their own outcomes versus those of others. Experiential feedback is conditioned by a logic of accountability, vicarious feedback by a logic of emulation.

David Strang: Cornell University. E-mail:

Kelly Patterson: University of Southern California. E-mail:

  • Citation: Strang, David and Kelly Patterson. 2014. “Asymmetries in Experiential and Vicarious Feedback: Lessons from the Hiring and Firing of Baseball Managers.” Sociological Science 1: 178-198.
  • Received: October 9, 2013
  • Accepted: October 14, 2013
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Olav Sorenson
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a13

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