Going It Alone: Competition Increases the Attractiveness of Minority Status
36 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2019
Date Written: February 13, 2019
Past research demonstrates that people prefer to affiliate with others who resemble them demographically and ideologically. However, we posit that this tendency toward homophily may be overridden by a desire to stand out when competing for scarce opportunities. Across six experiments, we find that anticipated competition weakens people’s desire to join groups that include similar others. When expecting to compete against fellow group members, women prefer to join all-male groups, Black participants prefer to join all-White groups, and partisans prefer to join groups composed of members of the opposite political party at a significantly higher rate than they do in the absence of competition. Two follow-up studies show that participants’ desire to stand out from other group members mediates this effect. Our findings highlight an important boundary condition to past research on homophily, shedding light on when and why minorities prefer to join groups in which they will be underrepresented.
Keywords: diversity, gender, race, group selection, competition, homophily
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