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Why Oscar Awards are biased towards America & American culture

Last Modified Monday, 6 February 2017 (17:08 IST)
Mumbai: If you want to win an Oscar, it is best to be an in a film that portrays American culture.That is the conclusion of a paper published in the British Journal of Psychology by Dr Niklas K Steffens from the School of Psychology at The University of Queensland and his fellow authors.

The researchers conducted a large-scale analysis of the distribution of the Academy Awards for best actor and for best actress in a leading role by the Los Angeles-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars) as well as the award for best actor and for best actress in a leading role of the London-based British Academy of Film and Television Arts (the BAFTAs) since 1968.

This covered a total of 908 merit prize winners, comprising 97 winners and 383 (unsuccessful) nominees for the Oscars and 97 winners and 331 (unsuccessful) nominees for the BAFTAs.
Both awards state that they aim to recognize the best performances in films from all over the world.The results show that actors dominated the awards, winning more than 50 per cent of all prizes across Oscars and BAFTAs.

Nevertheless, the actors were more likely to win if they shared social group membership with the judges.This meant that American actors won 52 per cent of all BAFTAs but 69 per cent of all Oscars, while British actors won 18 per cent of all Oscars but 34 per cent of all BAFTAs.
"We know a lot about the factors that increase people's capacity to show exceptional performances,” said.

“However, a somewhat different question is what makes a given creative performance likely to be seen as exceptional,” he said ,explaining that this was the question they addressed this research."These results show that whether we see a given performance as extraordinary is not just a function of the objective quality of that performance,” he continued.“For perceivers are much more likely to recognise a performance as truly brilliant when perceivers and performers share membership in a social group.

" The data also showed that nationality made a difference to actually winning an award.
For the Oscars, American actors received 67 per cent of all nominations, but 78 percent of all awards.The same held true for the BAFTAs, where British actors won 31 per cent of all nominations but 42 percent of all awards.

Commenting on this pattern, Dr Steffens said that shared social group membership becomes even more important when the diagnostic value of a quality indicator increases - that is, when we establish whether something is not just excellent but outstanding."In this case, American actors win two out of three of all Oscar nominations, but almost four out of five of all Oscar awards.
" Another important determinant of success was the subject matter of the film.

In the Oscars, American artists accounted for 26 percent of award winners whose performance was in films about non-US culture, but for 88 percent of award winners whose performance was in films about American culture."There is a widespread belief that our perception of makes a creation original and outstanding is given by its objective qualities, but in fact it is heavily influenced by the social groups we are members of, and which provide the basis for making sense of the world,"Dr Steffens maintains. (UNI)
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