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Delusions of Homogeneity? Reinterpreting the Effects of Group Diversity

Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Review of Group and Team-Based Research

ISBN: 978-1-78190-030-7, eISBN: 978-1-78190-031-4

Publication date: 19 September 2012


Purpose – To motivate diversity researchers to reconsider prior findings that use homogeneity as the standard to which diverse teams are compared. To recognize that homogeneity may be just as (if not more) influential than diversity in shaping group processes.

Design/approach – We selectively review the diversity literature and develop a conceptual reinterpretation of prior research. We challenge the general orientation in the literature to treat homogeneity as a baseline to which the effects of diversity are compared. We develop propositions that use diversity as the baseline for homogeneity and provide directions for future research.

Findings – We redigest evidence relating to five core areas in which researchers have identified differences between diverse and homogeneous groups, indicating that homogeneity may lead to (1) an avoidance of disagreement, (2) less use of unique information, (3) overconfidence about performance, (4) more social focus, and (5) less sensitivity to relationship conflict than might be warranted. Based on this reinterpretation of prior literature, we propose that homogeneous teams are prone to delusions, assuming they share similar values, opinions, knowledge, and preferences that make their world seem more homogeneous and comfortable than it may actually be.

Originality/value – We attempt to spur greater understanding of how diversity and homogeneity affect group functioning. We stress the independent effects of homogeneity in shaping group outcomes, an underexplored perspective in the diversity literature.



Phillips, K.W. and Apfelbaum, E.P. (2012), "Delusions of Homogeneity? Reinterpreting the Effects of Group Diversity", Neale, M.A. and Mannix, E.A. (Ed.) Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Review of Group and Team-Based Research (Research on Managing Groups and Teams, Vol. 15), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 185-207.



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