Research Shows When Groups Are Diverse, Individuals Are Less Likely to Go Along With the Crowd

Research Shows When Groups Are Diverse, Individuals Are Less Likely to Go Along With the Crowd

If you have ever sat in a business meeting and watched a group coalesce around a false premise or a bad decision, you might be interested to know that conformity in groups is a common experience and one that social science has studied extensively for decades. 

While decision making can be affected by multiple factors including group size, time of day, location of meeting and history, conformity -- the tendency for an individual to agree with the majority’s position -- is considered by social scientists to be a universal group phenomenon. It was first reported in the academic press by Solomon Asch in the early 1950s, when he asked individuals in groups of eight to publicly state which of three lines printed on a card was most similar in length to a single line printed on a second card. The correct answer was obvious, but surprisingly, was not always chosen.

Unbeknownst to the one actual participant in the study, Asch had stacked the group with seven accomplices who acted as the other participants. Their job was to frequently choose the wrong line. The actual study participants found themselves going along with their ostensible group members who falsely stated that lines of different lengths were in fact the same. 

As a result, the group frequently coalesced around a factually inaccurate decision. This finding may not be a surprise if you’ve ever experienced group decision making at its worst, but it is troubling just the same.

Given the changing nature of the workplace, and with help from our colleagues, Hannah Birnbaum from the Kellogg School of Management and Laura Babbitt and Samuel Sommers from Tufts University, we recently set out to revisit Asch’s work with one important twist: We compared rates of conformity in all-white groups -- the types of groups that Asch used -- to racially diverse groups, which are more reflective of today’s demographics.

To read about the results of the study, check out the full article at: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/296339

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