In accreditation, candidates are evaluated against a standard for being admitted to a closed category, such as a profession or an organizational grouping. Accreditors typically have to simultaneously judge a candidate’s performance record and fit with the category. While prior work suggests that higher performing candidates may get away with lower fit, we
argue conversely that peer accreditors expect stronger categorical fit from high performers. In doing so, peer evaluators act as gatekeepers for the category: they deny access to powerful yet ill-fitting newcomers who may threaten the coherence of the category and durably alter its identity. We expect the gatekeeper effect to be stronger when categories have few members and are crisp, and when peer evaluators are highly typical of the category they represent. We use data on 68,968 resumes submitted by individuals for accreditation in Italian academia totest and confirm our hypotheses. Our findings have implications for work on social evaluation, categories, and collective identity.
Discussant: Michaela Trippl