Wisdom of crowds: Why diversity is important for good decisions

Interesting research coming out of Tufts University showing that racially diverse groups were consistently better at decision making than homogenous groups. While it has been known for some time that minority members are more likely to express divergent viewpoints in diverse groups, this research shows similar advantages for majority members as well.

This study implies that racially diverse groups may be more thorough and competent than homogeneous ones. “Diversity, at least in a group decision-making context, has some real benefits–and for everyone in the group,” says Sommers, one of the study authors.

Specific finding that is interesting-

Juries that include white and black members are likely to exchange more information about the details of a case than all-white juries, a process that may lead to more detailed deliberations and fairer verdicts, according to a study that examined racial composition and group decision making in a mock jury scenario.

The findings suggest that minority members’ input isn’t the only reason for the wider ranging discussions of diverse groups. White study participants who were part of the diverse juries were more willing to discuss racism and accurately cited more case facts than those in all-white groups, possibly because they were motivated to avoid racial bias, the study authors suggests.

Recently, in several talks I have discussed how tagging and several other types of social formations on the web enable more diverse participation in decision making. This and some other previous research shows that diversity is important, not just for making sure minority voices are included, but simply to have better decision making.

More about the paper here. Full text here.

2 thoughts on “Wisdom of crowds: Why diversity is important for good decisions

  1. Interesting.

    It seems (to put my academic mind in gear), that there could be two causes for this.

    1) Different racial groups hold (on average) different viewpoints. And viewpoint diversity makes for better deliberation.

    or

    2) Less (racial or other) in-group identification with someone who says something makes you more comfortable challenging the point. So in diverse groups you are more likely to have at least one member willing to challenge any given statement.

    or

    3) (did I say two?) Racial groups share enough of a common language that they assume that they understand what the other person is saying. Diverse groups check assumtions more often.

    There are some implications in here for focus group design (though we don’t do focus groups, do we ;-) and probably for usability testing and contextual research.

    Cool link,
    Thank you!

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