Evaluating Diversity: The Influence of Racial and Gender Composition on Information Processing and Group Decision Making

Project Date:
Nov 2005
Award Amount:
$97,286
Project Programs:
Cultural Contact

Proponents of multiculturalism extol the ability of diverse groups to learn from the varied experiences and backgrounds of their individual members. While it is true that with broader perspectives, diverse groups may be able to think more innovatively and solve problems more effectively, it could also be the case that heterogeneous groups experience more conflict and have greater difficulty in reaching consensus. With support from the Foundation, psychologist Samuel Sommers will examine the influence of racial and gender diversity on group decision-making. More specifically, Sommers will conduct four studies that examine the psychological processes through which racial and gender diversity affect group outcomes as well as individuals' social motivations and cognitive tendencies. The first study will test whether participants in a racially diverse group are better able to remember information presented to them (on either race-relevant or race-neutral topics) than members of heterogeneous groups. The second study will test whether membership in a diverse group increases an individual's concern about avoiding racial bias. Study three will assess whether people divided into groups by gender show similar decision-making patterns as those broken into groups by race. Study four will test whether diverse groups are more likely than homogenous groups to make bias-free decisions. While most research on group diversity views its effects only as originating from the minority group members, Sommers will explore the possible benefits of diversity for both minority and majority group members. The research will be disseminated at conferences and in articles submitted to psychological journals.

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