Predicting from diversity. How predictions about unknown group members are influenced by relevant and irrelevant group diversity

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During social interactions, we are constantly making predictions about other people’s behaviour. To inform these predictions, we often make use of what we know about the groups a person belongs to. Previous studies show that the extent to which we use group knowledge to make inferences depends on the diversity within group members. Yet, these studies have not distinguished between group diversity on a property that is relevant to the current goal (i.e. making a prediction about a group member’s behaviour), from group diversity on an uninformative, irrelevant property. Therefore, the present study aims to investigate how these two aspects of group diversity influence predictions about unknown group members’ behaviour. To do so, we created a novel behavioural paradigm in which group diversity is manipulated both in the goal-relevant dimension (i.e. behaviour) and in a goal-irrelevant dimension (i.e. physical appearance), and participants had to make predictions about the behaviour of unknown group members. As expected, we found that higher goal-relevant diversity leads to more variable and uncertain predictions. Goal-irrelevant diversity also affects predictions in the same direction. Our findings suggest that predictions about unknown group members are not only influenced by group diverstiy in a relevant dimension (i.e. behaviour) but also by diversity in an irrelevant, uninformative dimension of the group (i.e. physical appearance). Finally, possible mechanisms underlying these findings are discussed and further research directions are suggested.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen