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A Group's 'Diversity' Depends on the Race of Each Observer

A Group’s ‘Diversity’ Depends on the Race of Each Observer

Your definition of diversity may be quite different from your friend’s or coworker’s, especially if you all are of a different race.

A new study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that seeing new members of your own race added to a group tends to increase your perception of diversity within that group — even if the other races saw no increase in their numbers.

Earlier research has found that higher levels of diversity are associated with more trust, increased feelings of safety and social satisfaction, and greater expectations that people will be treated fairly and experience equal opportunities within an organization.

For the new study, researchers from the University of California at Irvine, the University of Virginia, and the University of California at Los Angeles analyzed how Whites, Asian Americans, and African Americans evaluate diversity. The participants were asked to rate the diversity of various groups of people that were presented as a team at work.

Researchers found that in-group representation (seeing members of one’s own race included in the group) increased perceived diversity, even when the number of racial groups and number of racial minority group members saw no change.

For example, Asian Americans perceived more diversity in a group that included Whites and Asian Americans compared to a group that included Whites and African Americans. African Americans considered a group with Whites and African Americans as more diverse than one with Whites and Asian Americans.

Concerns about discrimination had a strong effect on why minorities are especially aware of the representation of their own race. For example, in-group representation had a stronger effect on diversity judgments made by Asian Americans who were aware of national statistics about discrimination against Asian Americans compared to those who were not.

However, the in-group representation effect disappeared when Asian Americans became aware of national statistics regarding discrimination against African Americans; these individuals rated a team of Whites and African Americans as equally diverse as a team of Whites and Asians.

“More research needs to consider the unique perspective of each racial group. A lot of valuable insights have come from research that contrasted majority and minority groups, but finer grained analysis will become increasingly important as the country continues to become more diverse,” said lead researcher Christopher Bauman.

The research shows that individuals from different races may view the same team or organization and judge it differently in terms of diversity.

“Racial minority group members care whether or not members of their own race are part of a team. While the presence of other minority groups is better than no diversity at all, it’s not the same as having someone of your own race present,” Dr. Bauman said.

“You can’t lump racial minority groups together and treat them as a monolithic whole. Each racial group has its own history and faces unique challenges, and it should not be surprising that they approach situations differently,” he said.

Source: Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Group of multiethnic people photo by shutterstock.

A Group’s ‘Diversity’ Depends on the Race of Each Observer

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). A Group’s ‘Diversity’ Depends on the Race of Each Observer. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 9 Aug 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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