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Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 99 (2006) 1–15 Decision performance
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 99 (2006) 1–15 Decision performance

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 99 (2006) 1–15

Behavior and Human Decision Processes 99 (2006) 1–15 Decision performance and

Decision performance and diversity structure: Comparing faultlines in convergent, crosscut, and racially homogeneous groups

John E. Sawyer a,¤ , Melissa A. Houlette b,1 , Erin L. Yeagley c,1

a Department of Business Administration, Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, 236 Alfred Lerner Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, USA b College of Mount St. Joseph, USA c University of Delaware, USA

Received 25 July 2003 Available online 28 September 2005


Group diversity structure (the composition of racial and job-function diversity) and pre-discussion decision eVects on group deci- sion accuracy were tested in three-person groups. Evidence supported the social categorization model and the notion of multiple faultlines (i.e., subgroup boundaries). Crosscut diversity structure, where racial and job-function subgroup boundaries are crossed, weakened faultlines, enhanced information sharing and improved decision-making. Our data also supported the common knowledge eVect. Groups in which members made pre-discussion choices arrived at incorrect decisions consistent with majority members’ pre- discussion preferences, based on a biased subset of information. Crosscut groups in which members did not make pre-discussion choices performed the best. Analyses of video taped interactions and attitudes toward the group help to explain these diVerences. We discuss the implications for managing demographically diverse groups and for future research on the impact of various attributes of diversity in groups. 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Group decision; Social categorization; Faultlines; Diversity structure; Common knowledge eVect; Attentional focus

In modern businesses, groups are frequently com- posed of members with diverse backgrounds and from multiple business functions. Members meet to share and discuss information relevant to the problem at hand. In principle, such discussion is believed to accomplish a corrective function whereby the biased and incomplete information of individuals is compensated for by the

This research was supported by a CERT grant from the College of Business and Economics, University of Delaware. Thanks to three anonymous reviewers, David A. Harrison and Deborah C. Andrews for their suggestions and assistance developing the manuscript. * Corresponding author. Fax: +1 302 831 4196. E-mail address: (J.E. Sawyer). 1 Melissa Houlette and Erin Yeagley were both doctoral students in the Psychology Department at the University of Delaware during data collection.

0749-5978/$ - see front matter 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


group piecing together a more accurate and complete information base from which to make decisions (Stasser & Titus, 1985). Theoretically this interaction results in higher quality decisions than any individual would achieve working alone. Having people from multiple business functions and backgrounds work together in groups is expected to provide a broader range of per- spectives (i.e., knowledge, skills, information, and prob- lem solving approaches) than would come from homogeneous groups of individuals. However, prior research on diversity in groups has shown mixed results. A meta-analysis of empirical studies of diversity found no consistent eVect of diversity (job related, gender or race) on either performance or group cohesion (Webber & Donahue, 2001). This result did not diVer between top management versus lower level teams.


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Webber and Donahue oVer a number of possible explana- tions for their Wndings. One possibility is the inconsistent Wndings may occur because researchers ignore diVerent eVects of diVerent types of diversity (e.g., surface versus deep level) and the interaction of time with types of diver- sity (Harrison, Price, & Bell, 1998). Furthermore, diVerent attributes of diversity may aVect performance only to the extent that they aVect social integration in groups (Harri- son, Price, Gavin, & Florey, 2002). Diversity activates social categorization (Kramer, 1991) in which individuals identify themselves as insiders or outsiders (Milliken & Martins, 1996). As a result, groups may not adequately integrate information across job-function or racial subgroups. Self-categorization on salient diVerences like race and job-function leads to boundaries that seriously inXuence group processes, limit communication, and diminish group cohesion (Lau & Murninghan, 1998). Lau and Murninghan refer to these ingroup versus outsider boundaries as “faultlines.” In the current study, we focus on two types of faultlines; those deWned by demographic diversity and those deWned by informational diVerences imbedded in diVerent job-func- tions. We refer to the relationship between these attributes of diversity as a group’s Diversity Structure. Given the inconsistent impact of diversity across studies, the unanswered question is; under what circum- stances does diversity in teams matter? Our study focuses on when and how diversity eVects might be oper- ating with the goal of learning how to leverage the pre- dicted, but elusive eVects of diversity. We postulate that multiple attributes of diversity manifest themselves in diVerent conWgurations leading to various diversity structures. We argue that diversity structure, not amount of diversity, is a key driver of the eVect of diversity. We examine the eVects of diVerent combinations of job- function and demographic diversity on group decision- making eVectiveness by varying group composition and information distribution. We test group level perfor- mance and the cross-level eVects on behavior and per- ceptions to help us understand why diversity structure diVerences aVect group performance. We also examine the eVect of pre-discussion decisions among group mem- bers to allow us to provide comprehensive recommenda- tions for improving decision outcomes in diverse groups.

Group level eVects of diversity structure and prior choices

While management practitioners often tout the advantages of a diverse workforce, research has sug- gested that diversity is a double edged sword, bringing beneWts and limitations. In an attempt to understand the eVects of diversity, researchers have diVerentiated job- related diversity such as attitudes, viewpoints, and knowledge from less job-related diversity such as race, gender and age (e.g., Pelled, Eisenhardt, & Xin, 1999).

Group level diversity translates into individual attributes that are task-related or relations-oriented (Jackson, May, & Whitney, 1995). Task-related diversity may occur when members of diVerent job-functions bring diVerent information to bear on a problem. Resulting information diVerences (Jehn, Northcraft, & Neale, 1999) provide diVerent perspectives (Williams & O’Reilly, 1998), but may result in conXicting viewpoints and opinions pertaining to a group task (Jehn & Man- nix, 2001). While researchers expected task-related and relations-oriented diversity to have diVerential eVects on performance and group cohesion, a recent meta-analysis across 24 diVerent studies found no consistent eVects of diversity (Webber & Donahue, 2001). Time may moderate the eVects of surface level versus deep level diversity. Surface level attributes such as race and gender are immediately evident (generally immuta- ble) characteristics (Jackson, 1992; Jehn et al., 1999; Maznevski, 1994; Pelled et al., 1999). Deep level diversity relates to those attributes of the individual such as atti- tudes, beliefs and values that take time to emerge from interpersonal interaction. Harrison et al. (1998) found that time neutralized the negative eVects of surface level diversity on workgroup cohesion as group members got to know each other. In contrast, the recognition of deep level diversity emerges over time as people learn about others attitudes and beliefs. Thus, while deep level diver- sity had no eVect on cohesion in the short term, for those teams with greater experience together, deep level diver- sity (variance in job satisfaction and organizational commitment) reduced group cohesion over time. Lack of consistent Wndings suggests that the eVect of diversity is dependent on the social processes groups adopt. Diversity may have positive impact only to the extent that groups engage in debate (Simons, Pelled, & Smith, 1999), and social integration may determine group performance and cohesion (Harrison et al., 2002). Thus, to understand the eVects of diversity we must develop and understanding of the how diversity eVects social integra- tion and the interaction processes that allow groups to assimilate information to make eVective decisions.

Diversity structure: The conWguration of faultlines

Social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986) and self- categorization theory (Turner, 1982) are the predominate frameworks for understanding the eVects of diversity on social integration. Self-categorization theory suggests that individuals use various attributes of others to determine to what groups they belong. Surface level characteristics such as race and gender are immediately evident (generally immutable) characteristics that lead to identiWcation of subgroups (Jackson, 1992; Jehn et al., 1999; Maznevski, 1994; Pelled et al., 1999). While deep level diversity (Harri- son et al., 1998) often takes time to emerge through group interaction, visual or other sensory cues can sensitize

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members to diVerences and similarities quickly (Hertel & Kerr, 2001). Typically, in a business context group mem- bers know of each other’s job-function aYliations both through labeling and through surface manifestations such as dress or mannerisms. Informational diVerences may act as a deep level diversity that can emerge over time, or can be cued by known job-function diVerences (e.g., “I’m from the marketing department,” or sales people dress diVer- ently than manufacturing people) so that job related information diVerences act more like surface level diver- sity. Job-function distinctions (e.g., marketing versus pro- duction) can lead to social categorization within an organization (Kramer, 1991). Social Identity Theory sug- gests that any salient characteristic can lead to subgroup identity in which members see themselves as insiders to their subgroup, and view others as outsiders. Such sub- group boundaries generate beliefs and attitudes about insiders versus outsiders that can form a barrier to com- munication and collaboration. Similarly, when a single individual, or a numerically small subgroup of members hold diVerent information they may become minority opinion holders. Minority opin- ions can increase group creativity in problem solving and improve the quality of solutions (Nemeth & Wachtler, 1983). However, majority opinion holders are more likely to accept and integrate minority opinions when the minor- ity opinion holder is a member of the same social category as majority (i.e., Clark & Maass, 1988; Mugny & Papasta- mou, 1982). Those within one’s own social group will be more inXuential (Brock, 1965; Goethals & Nelson, 1973; Lau & Murninghan, 1998) because people respond better to messages that come from within their subgroup than from an outsider (Turner, 1982; Van Knippenberg & Wilke, 1992; Wiegman, 1985; Wilder, 1990). Thus, the amount of diversity matters less than how that diversity is conWgured in the group. Lau and Mur-

ninghan (1998) developed the faultline analogy. They suggested that subgroups based on salient attributes of group members form faultlines. Individual attributes such as race, gender, job roles, and other salient diVer- ences lead to self-categorization and thus form multiple homogeneous subgroups. In an otherwise homogeneous group, job-function diVerences will result in a single faultline because the members of one job-function see themselves as a separate subgroup from others in the group. This single subgroup faultline is illustrated in the middle image of Fig. 1, where two members of a single job-function within a racially homogeneous group see themselves as diVerent and separate from a third mem- ber who represents a diVerent job-function. The alignment of multiple subgroups determines the strength of the faultline separating a subgroup from the rest of the group. When the faultlines of racial and job- function subgroups converge, such that members of the job-function subgroup are also members of a racial sub- group, the subgroup distinction is sharpened. Multiple converging subgroups (Lau & Murninghan, 1998) strengthen the faultline, further blocking social and infor- mation integration across the subgroup boundary. The convergence of race and job-function subgroups is illus- trated in the bottom right image of Fig. 1. The faultline analogy is consistent with the social categorization model (Brewer & Miller, 1984), which predicts that convergence of race and job-function will promote category-based responding because race and job-function cues coincide. The convergence of racial with job-function sub-groups may be a limiting condition on the potential beneWts of job-function (task-related) diversity (Pelled et al., 1999; Simons et al., 1999) because it impedes social integration. In contrast, crosscutting race with diVerent job-func- tions undercuts the salience of racial categorization by changing the patterns of who is “in” and who is “out”






Same Race


Fill pattern indicates different job functions resulting in unique information.

Background color indicates race.

The three partitions of each triangle indicate three group members, persons A, B, & C.


Fig. 1. Diversity structure: Distribution of information across racial subgroups.


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and promotes individual as opposed to subgroup-based interaction (Marcus-Newhall, Miller, Holtz, & Brewer, 1993). When race crosses job-function, some racial sub- group members will align with the job-function identiW- cation of members outside their racial subgroup. The top left image of Fig. 1 illustrates this crosscutting of race and job-function subgroups. Crosscutting also results in members within the same racial subgroup representing diVerent job-functions, thus holding diVerent informa- tion from each other, while having job-function in com- mon with members outside their racial subgroup. Since people expect to agree with similarly categorized others, discrepant views from in-group members violate expec- tations and are likely to induce active processing of information (Baker & Petty, 1994; Petty & Cacioppo,


There has been little empirical research directly test- ing Lau and Murninghan’s (1998) faultline concept. Gibson and Vermeulen (2003) measured team heteroge- neity as the overlap of attributes across all pairs of team members summed across the team. They deWned sub- group strength as the standard deviation of the overlap across members. Thus, if some group member pairs had many traits in common while others had few traits in common, subgroup strength was high indicating there was at least one subgroup whose members shared many traits. Gibson and Vermeulen (2003) found an inverted U relationship between subgroup strength and team learning behavior, with team learning occurring only when subgroup strength was moderate. In their formula- tion, subgroup strength is moderate when members of a subgroup also share attributes in common with group members outside their subgroup. Thatcherr, Jehn, and Zanutto (2003) used a similar calculation of faultline strength. They tested the eVect of faultline strength on conXict (relationship, task, and pro- cess) and group outcomes (performance and morale). Their analysis did not support the hypothesis that fault- line strength is inversely related to performance and task conXict. Their own reanalysis indicated that groups with medium faultlines in which members had overlapping membership across multiple faultlines had higher levels of performance and morale. Thus, the critical factor in enhancing performance and morale is cross-subgroup alignment. Shaw (2004) also presented a method of determining faultline strength. He measured internal alignment by determining the extent to which members of a subgroup are more similar than chance distribution with other members on all other possible attributes. Summing across attribute categories determines the extent of inter- nal subgroup alignment. Cross-subgroup alignment is the extent to which members of a subgroup share attri- butes with others outside their subgroup. If internal alignment is high and cross-group alignment is low, the faultlines are strong. In contrast, even if internal align-

ment is high, if cross-group alignment is also high fault- lines are weak. Shaw (2004) validated his approach by demonstrating that the calculations of cross subgroup alignment were consistent with Lau and Murninghan’s prototypical groups. He also showed that the measures had convergent and discriminant validity in two sam- ples. Shaw cautioned that his study did not test the eVects of diversity on group process or performance. Our conception of diversity structure is consistent with Shaw’s conceptualization of faultline strength as the extent of internal versus cross subgroup alignment. The convergent subgroups described above and illus- trated in Fig. 1 have strong faultlines because there are two attributes of alignment (shared race and job-func- tion) within the subgroup. When job-function diversity converges with racial diversity (i.e., racial subgroup members have similar information), the job-function faultline reinforces the racial faultline thus strengthening the subgroup distinction, reducing cohesion with mem- bers outside the racial subgroup, and greatly impeding communication (O’Reilly, Caldwell, & Barnett, 1989). In this conceptualization, the same race group has a moder- ate faultline because there is a subgroup identiWed by the internal alignment of job-function, but there is no salient cross subgroup alignment. In contrast, the crosscut group, thou it has more diversity than the same race group (race and job-function versus merely job-func- tion) has a weaker faultline. When members of a sub- group also share salient attributes with other group members outside their subgroup, there is cross-subgroup alignment of attributes. This cross subgroup alignment reduces the subgroup identiWcation and thus the fault- line strength. Thus, social integration is more likely to occur (Marcus-Newhall et al., 1993). The crosscut struc- ture with its weakened faultlines should allow members to share and integrate information better than groups with clear-cut boundaries, thus arriving at better deci- sions more often than same race groups. We hasten to point out that this is a more Wne-grained approach, and leads to a diVerent hypothesis than the minority inXuence literature. The minority inXuence lit- erature would suggest that same race groups would per- form better because the minority-opinion holder shares race with both other members (Phillips, 2003) while in crosscut groups the minority-opinion holder shares race with only one member of the majority-opinion group. Following Shaw’s (2004) measurement of faultline strength, convergent groups will have the strongest faultline because both race and job-function deWne a subgroup. Same race groups have a subgroup deWned by only job- function and thus their faultline will be weaker than con- vergent groups. Crosscut groups have the weakest faultline because one member of the racial subgroup aligns with the job function attribute of a member outside the racial sub- groups, and one member of the job-function subgroup aligns racially with a member outside the job-function

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subgroup. Thus, we predict that crosscut groups will arrive at the correct decision more frequently, and convergent groups less frequently, than racially homogeneous groups.

Hypothesis 1. Groups in which attributes crosscut sub group boundaries will achieve greater decision accuracy than same race groups and groups with convergent sub- group boundaries will under perform same race groups.

Prior choices and the common knowledge eVect

Several researchers have studied information sharing and group judgment. A number of scholars have used hidden proWle tasks to investigate the information-sam- pling model (Stasser, 1988). Hidden proWles occur when commonly held information supports an inferior deci- sion alternative, thus the use of unique information held by an individual or a small subset of the group is required to uncover the best choice. The information- sampling model proposes that the probability of an item of information entering group discussion is a function of the number of individuals in the group who hold that item. As the pool of shared items is depleted, more unshared items are discussed (Larson, Foster-Fishman, & Keys, 1994). However, other processes as noted in the comprehensive review by Stasser and Dietz-Uhler (2002) aVect the likelihood that information will enter group discussion and thus inXuence decisions. Research on conformity (Deutsch & Gerard, 1955) and jury decision-making (Davis et al., 1993) has shown that once individuals have made a public commitment, they resist changing their judgment even under social pressure. In a decision task, the act of forming and formally stating a judgment may bias individuals to seek information to conWrm that judgment and contribute only information that supports that judgment. The attentional focus model (Kelly & Karau, 1999) suggests that initial preferences serve as a Wlter through which new information is consid- ered. Thus, member preferences may inXuence the content of group discussion such that members adopt a hypothe- sis-conWrming search strategy where individual attention and group discussion focuses on information supportive of pre-discussion preferences and ignores or undervalues contradictory information. However, even if the information is considered it may have less impact on the group’s decision than the mem- bers’ pre-discussion preferences. Common knowledge has a greater impact on group judgment than unshared information because it can serve as a common reference point for all group members. Gigone and Hastie (1993) found that group members use information they hold prior to group discussion to make individual judgments. Individual judgments have a greater inXuence on group judgments than the original information. One implication of the common knowledge eVect is that information held by multiple members prior to discussion

will aVect all of those members’ pre-discussion judgments and thus will have a larger inXuence on the group judg- ment than information that a minority of the members hold. When a subgroup of the members hold the same information, it is likely that they will arrive at the same pre- discussion preference, assuming they weight the informa- tion similarly. The informational subgroup with the major- ity of the members will be able to pressure the member(s) holding the minority opinion to adopt its preference (Davis, 1973). Thus, shared information should have more inXuence on the group judgment even if unshared informa- tion is discussed fully. When the knowledge held by the informational outsider is needed to realize the best option, informational subgroup boundaries make it less likely that the minority information is considered and the group will likely adopt the inferior majority choice. In contrast, when there is no pre-discussion decision, members consider more information. With no pre-discussion decisions, the atten- tional focus is taken oV the pre-discussion preferences and more attention is given to exploring the information, thus leading to a more optimal decision.

Hypothesis 2. When members do not state pre-discussion preferences groups will make the best decision more often than when members make a pre-discussion choice.

We expect that pre-discussion preferences will act in an additive fashion with diversity structure. That is, by stating a pre-discussion preference, group members are likely to focus on individual decisions rather than exploring information. Given that pre-discussion prefer- ences are related to job-function informational diVer- ences, and each of our conditions includes a job-function faultline, all groups stating pre-discussion preferences will under perform those groups not stating pre-discus- sion preferences. Thus, we do not expect an interaction among these factors.

Cross-level eVects of group structure on individuals

Group interaction processes

To reach the best decision, the job-function outsider must participate in the group discussion and members of the job-function subgroup must pay attention to him or her. However, interaction problems associated with the diversity structure of the group often leads to poor atti- tudes and unproductive behaviors (Maznevski, 1994). Because token, or skewed distribution of minority membership in groups has negative eVects on the token member (Kanter, 1977) we compare two critical posi- tions within the group. In all three types of diversity structure, there is always an information outsider. In the convergent condition the information outsider is not a member of either the racial or job function subgroup. In the crosscut condition the information outsider is a


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member of the racial majority subgroup. In the same race condition the information outsider diVers from other group members only by job-function (see position C in each image in Fig. 1). Comparing the crosscut and convergent conditions the racial outsider is a member of the job-function subgroup in the crosscut but not the convergent condition (see position A in Fig. 1). Compar- ing across conditions, one person is always both a racial and information insider (see position B in each image of Fig. 1). Focusing on position C allow us to make infer- ence about the impact of diVerent diversity structures on the information outsider. Comparing position A and C allows us to determine if this eVect is due to being a racial minority, versus being an information outsider. The faultline analogy (Lau & Murninghan, 1998) sug- gests that the stronger the faultline the less participation will cross the faultline. In convergent groups, the infor- mation outsider is constrained by both the uniqueness of his or her job-function and the racial boundary. Thus, the boundary to participation is stronger in convergent groups than in same race groups where only the job- function faultline impedes participation. In crosscut groups, the crossing of the racial and job-function fault- lines will reduce subgroup categorization opening greater participation by the information outsider than in the same race condition.

Hypothesis 3. The job-function (information) outsider will participate more in crosscut diversity-structure groups than in same-race groups and less in groups with convergent subgroup boundaries.

For Hypothesis 3, we compare the participation of the job-function (information) outsider with the job- function majority member who is a racial minority in the crosscut and a racial majority in the convergent condi- tion (person A in each image of Fig. 1). We did this to control for variability in discussion time across groups and to assess if race versus information minority is the determining factor of this eVect. We propose that infor- mation minority is more important than race in deter- mining level of participation. Majority group members will pay attention to similar others and allow their information to inXuence the group’s decisions more than information coming from dissimilar persons (Baker & Petty, 1994; Phillips, 2003). Thus, we predict the information outsider will be attended to more in the crosscut and less in the conver- gent than in the same race condition. 2

2 Prior research (Harrison et al., 2002) suggests that the eVect of diver- sity structure on group performance is mediated by social integration. This suggests a mediation hypothesis. However, the experimental para- digm used in this study makes it impractical to generate a large enough sample size to eVectively test a mediation hypothesis controlling for non- independence among group members and experimental condition. Thus, we consider the co-occurrence of participation, attitudes and perfor- mance by condition as consistent with the Harrison et al., Wndings.

Hypothesis 4. The job-function (information) outsider will be attended to more in crosscut groups than in same race groups and less in convergent diversity structure groups.

Group member perceptions of the group

Members’ identiWcation with the group may be an important factor in group decision-making since strong group attachment has been associated with a high level of activity (Kirchmeyer & Cohen, 1992). Informational diVerences within the group may result in the informa- tion outsider not identifying with the group. When diver- sity structure is convergent, the informational outsider is further isolated due to both job-function and racial diVerences. In contrast, the crosscut diversity structure weakens the faultline boundaries. In the absence of strong faultlines the informational outsiders are more likely to see themselves as belonging to the group. In the same race groups, though all members are of the same race, the job-function faultline is salient resulting in less identiWcation with the whole group.

Hypothesis 5. The information outsider will identify with the group more in crosscut groups than same race groups and less in groups with convergent subgroup boundaries.

Diversity leads to higher performance when members are able to combine and build on each other’s ideas. Studies have shown that groups high on both diversity and integration have positive attitudes and improved information-processing (Harrison et al., 2002; Maznev- ski, 1994). Since crosscutting weakens faultlines and should therefore promote integration of information across job-function and racial diversity, information outsiders in the crosscut condition should perceive greater opportunity to inXuence the group.

Hypothesis 6. Information outsiders will perceive their ability to inXuence the group more in crosscut groups than same race groups and less in convergent groups.

Following the same logic, the information outsider will perceive greater group process eVectiveness in cross- cut diversity structure and less eVectiveness in the con- vergent condition than among same race groups.

Hypothesis 7. Information outsiders will perceive the group process as more eVective in in crosscut groups than same race groups and less in convergent groups.


Participants worked on a drug marketing decision task in three-person groups. The study employed a 3 Diversity Structure (crosscut, same race, or convergent) £ 2 Pre-discussion Decision (yes, no) between-groups design. In racially diverse groups, two

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members of the same race formed a racial subgroup while the other member was a racial outsider. We focus on racial diversity because it is among the most obvious and socially signiWcant attributes of diversity. However, we expect that our research would apply to social cate- gorization based on inherent characteristics that are highly salient and imply attitudinal, belief, value or sta- tus diVerences among group members (Hollingshead, 1996). The racial majority was composed of White Americans because of the larger availability of White versus minority participants, which approximates the demographics in the US workforce (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002). We determined diversity structure by the assignment of group members to job-function through labeling and information supplied to members of the groups. In the convergent condition, both racial majority members (persons A and B in Fig. 1) represented the same job-function and held the same information while the racial outsider (person C) held diVerent information representing a diVerent job-function. In the crosscut con- dition, the racial outsider (person A) represented the same job-function as one member of the racial majority (person B), while the other member of the racial majority (person C) represented the diVerent job-function (the information outsider). In the same race groups, two members (persons A and B) represented the same job- function while the third member (person C) was the job- function (information) outsider. We use a laboratory context in order to isolate two attributes of diversity into speciWc structural conWgura- tions. While we acknowledge the limitations of using contrived groups in a laboratory context, this methodol- ogy allows us to directly test hypotheses about diversity structure without other confounds that occur in Weld set- tings. We chose to use three-person groups and compare same race/diVerent job-function to crosscut and conver- gent diversity structures in order to provide the simplest, most straight-forward test of the faultline hypothesis. We use same sex groups to avoid gender diversity within groups. Using Shaw’s (2004) computation, 3 the faultline strength for the crosscut groups is 0.1875, for same race diVerent job-function groups is 0.4375, and for conver- gent groups is 0.875. Thus, our ordering of conditions is consistent with a linear relationship between faultline

3 Shaw (2004) computes Faultline Strength as the average of the faultline strength for each diversity attribute represented within the group. Faultline strength is the Internal Alignment on an attribute mul- tiplied by the inverse of the Cross Group Alignment. Internal Alignment is the 2 ratio of the observed frequency of membership within a sub- group compared to the expected value assuming random distribution. Cross-Subgroup Alignment is the weighted average of the cross prod- ucts of membership across each pair of subgroups. Faultline Strength varies from 0.0 to 1.0 with 1.0 being the strongest. Strong faultlines can result from high internal alignment or from low cross sub-group align- ment while low scores can result from little internal alignment or from high cross sub-group alignment.

strength and decision accuracy. Comparing to Lau and Murninghan’s (1998) classiWcations, crosscut teams can align into two subgroups, two ways (i.e., the race sub- group is not the same as the job-function subgroup) making their faultline the weakest. The same race diVer- ent job-function groups can align into only one sub- group with one diVerentiating attribute. In contrast, the convergent groups can align into two subgroups, but only one way. Because two attributes deWne the single subgroup, their faultline is the strongest of the three group structures. The Pre-discussion Decision manipulation was whether participants made and recorded a personal deci- sion about which drug to market before group discus- sion. In the pre-discussion decision condition, prior to entering the group discussion, we asked participants to decide which drug was the best to develop for market based on the information they learned. We gave them a form on which to record their choice and their conW- dence in this choice. The participant handed this form personally to the experimenter. In the no pre-discussion decision condition, we did not ask individuals to make a decision prior to discussion.


Prospective participants completed a pre-experimen- tal questionnaire describing their demographic charac- teristics approximately one week prior to the experiment. They were then assigned to experiment times in order to compose groups of appropriate demo- graphic mix. Participants were given a scenario in which a pharmaceutical company was faced with a decision of which of two cholesterol-reducing drugs to develop for market. They were told they would later be assigned to a three-person group that would be required to identify which drug was the best to develop for market. We deliv- ered all instructions via audiotape for standardization. Participants were given an introduction sheet listing background information about cholesterol and the issues that they should consider when making a decision about marketing a given drug. This information was designed to orient the participants to the task and pro- vide a context for the facts that they would subsequently be given. We delivered the job-function assignment manipulation by telling participants that they would learn information about the two drugs and that the information they receive would be either marketing or medical facts related to each drug. They were told that they should be prepared to discuss the information they were about to learn and that they would have to rely on their memory during discussion. Participants had 20 minutes to study the 22 items given to them on a printed fact sheet. The facts were in random order. We gave par- ticipants a worksheet to help them study the information by sorting the facts for the two drugs, which also served


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to emphasize the job-function assignment manipulation. We then collected all material and gave participants 10 min to list as many facts as they could recall about each drug. The recall task served as a control to assure that there were no diVerences across conditions in the preparation of the participants. We followed the recall task with the pre-discussion decision manipulation. We then assigned participants to groups and moved them to private discussion rooms. Audiotaped instruc- tions informed the groups that they would have as much time as they needed to choose, by consensus, which drug to develop for market. We videotaped the discussions. After reaching consensus, each group recorded its deci- sion and wrote a justiWcation for its choice. Afterwards, participants were individually administered a post-dis- cussion questionnaire.


Two hundred nineteen students (102 males and 117 females) enrolled at a large university in the Eastern United States were assigned to 73 three-person groups. We recruited 153 advanced undergraduates from business courses and minority-student support programs. Addi- tionally 66 MBA students participated as part of a busi- ness course. Each group was composed of members of the same gender and education level (i.e., MBA students never participated along with undergraduate students). The racial outsiders were African American in 39 groups, His- panic in four groups and Asian in 12 groups. We evenly distributed the race of the outsider among the Diversity Structure conditions. Undergraduate students received a ten-dollar incentive or extra credit for participation. Incentives were for participation, not performance. Analy- sis showed that type of incentive (cash or course credit) did not inXuence performance. Additionally, there were no signiWcant diVerences in group structure or dynamics comparing MBA to undergraduate student groups.

Decision task material and information assignment

The decision task was adapted from a drug marketing decision task used by Kelly and Karau (1999). We selected a sample of their items to form two diVerent full information sets (32 items per set). Each participant received partial information consisting of 12 general information facts (identical for all participants), and 10 category-speciWc facts consisting of either medical or marketing issues regarding two diVerent drugs. In each group, we assigned identical sets of information to two of the members, forming an “information subgroup” preferring Drug 2. We assigned one member a unique set of category speciWc information designed to lead to a preference for Drug 1, constituting an “information out- sider.” The complete set of 32 items led to a preference for Drug 1 in 77% of pilot test individuals. Groups must

eVectively use the information outsider’s facts to arrive at the correct choice of Drug 1. Because our participants were in their workgroups for only a short time, we mimicked the cueing of informa- tional diVerences by visually labeling every member of the workgroup as per their job-function. Tajfel, Billig, Bundy, and Flament (1971) showed that such mere labeling of people into diVerent categories is suYcient to produce ingroup–outgroup boundaries, dubbed the min- imal group eVect. Many studies have produced ingroup favoritism and outgroup bias using the minimal group paradigm (e.g., Diehl, 1988; Gaertner & Insko, 2000; Hertel & Kerr, 2001). Thus, we expect this manipulation to produce a faultline. We told participants that they would receive diVerent information and gave them bad- ges indicating which set of information they received to emphasize the job-function assignment manipulation. To control for possible eVects of the speciWc category of information held by the members, we used a counterbal- anced design with two diVerent Stimulus Sets of infor- mation such that the information outsider held medical information in half the groups and marketing informa- tion in the other half. Pilot testing veriWed all intended drug choices. Addi- tionally, during the experiment, in 79% of the groups in which members made pre-discussion decisions, all three members began with the intended pre-discussion prefer- ences. The greater the number of members entering group discussion with the correct preference, the greater the like- lihood of groups reaching the correct decision option, 2 (3, N D 35) D 8.69, p D .03. This is consistent with Gruen- feld, Mannix, Williams, and Neale (1996). However, this relationship was not inXuenced by the Diversity Structure manipulation, 2 (6, N D 35) D 0.46, p D 1.00, thus diVer- ences in pre-discussion preferences were not responsible for diVerential eVects across conditions.

Dependent measures

Decision accuracy We coded the selection of the best option (Drug 1) as correct.

Videotaped behaviors We coded videotaped group discussions for talking and attending behavior as discussed in Hypotheses 3 and 4 using the CAMERA behavioral coding system (Kruk & Geuze, 1992) which uses a computer interface to elec- tronically time stamp the video taped sessions. When the target behavior occurs, coders press assigned keys pro- grammed for each of the behavior sets. The computer uses the time stamp to record the duration and fre- quency of the button presses. We showed six coders (two for each behavior) examples of the behaviors, rated sev- eral practice sessions taken from pilot studies, discussed discrepancies in the ratings, and continued training until

J.E. Sawyer et al. / Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 99 (2006) 1–15


an inter-rater reliability of at least .80 was achieved. All coders were blind to the experimental conditions and hypotheses and worked independently once trained.

Control variables

ence the processing objective of the participants. Addi- tionally, the association between recall and drug choice was not signiWcant, F (1,99) D 0.92, p > .10.

Some video segments (distributed evenly across condi- tions) could not be coded for one or more of the behav-

Post-experiment questionnaire

iors due to poor audio quality (degrees of freedom are reported for each analysis). The CAMERA system produced total discussion time for each session. Raters coded talking as the dura- tion of time that one member of the information sub- group and the information outsider talked. We chose the information subgroup member who was a racial major- ity member in the convergent condition and a racial out- sider in the crosscut condition (person A in Fig. 1) in order to make a direct comparison of the talking behav- ior of information outsiders versus insiders when they are racial minorities versus white. The information out-

Manipulation checks We included questions to verify that participants accurately perceived the informational and racial com- position of the group. Participants identiWed their own race and indicated which member(s), if any, were of the same race. Participants also identiWed their own job- function (medical or marketing) and indicated which member(s), if any, represented the same job-function. Seventy-one groups remained after removing two groups in which one or more members incorrectly identi- Wed the racial and/or job-function composition.

sider was a racial majority member in the crosscut condi- tion but a racial outsider in the convergent condition (person C in Fig. 1). Inter-rater agreement for the dura- tion of talking behavior was assessed by correlating rat- ings of the two coders for the information outsider (r D .97) and the information insider (r D .94). The second behavior coded was the amount of time the racial major- ity member, who was also an information insider, spent attending to the information outsider (inter-rater agree- ment, r D .94). In all conditions this was always person B

Control variables Participants indicated the extent to which they knew other members of the group to control for the eVect of prior acquaintance. Two groups had members who reported being close or intimate friends with another member, confounding our Diversity Structure manipula- tion. We removed these groups from further analyses leav- ing 69 groups in the experimental design. Table 1 identiWes the number of groups remaining in each condition.

(see Fig. 1). We chose person B because that individual always shared job-function with one member and race with the other group member (or with both members in the same-race groups). 4 We are interested in determining if this person attends to unique information more when it comes from a person of the same or diVerent race. We operationalized attending as directing head movement and gaze toward the information outsider.

Measures of perceptions of the group We administered three scales to identify constructs presumed to reXect group processes. The Group IdentiW- cation scale was nine items with a seven-point Likert scale (Hinkle, Taylor, & Fox-Cardamone, 1989) (e.g., “I see myself as an important part of this group.”). Oppor- tunity to InXuence consisted of six questions scored on a nine-point Likert scale measured one’s ability to inXu- ence the group decision (Johnson & Johnson, 1994) (e.g.,


Two independent raters content coded recall tasks

“How understood and listened to did you feel in your group?”). The group decision Process EVectiveness scale

(inter-rater r D .92). We tested to assure that the amount of information correctly recalled by individuals was not confounded with the Pre-discussion Decision manipula- tion. A repeated measures ANOVA comparing recall of items related to Drug 1 versus Drug 2 crossed with the Pre-discussion Decision manipulation showed that par- ticipants recalled more items relating to Drug 2

(Reagan & Rohrbaugh, 1990) consisted of 11 items, scored on a seven-point Likert scale with three adapted to apply to our task (e.g., “The group considered all rele- vant information in making its decision”).

(M D 10.10) than Drug 1 (M D 9.45), F (1,187) D 10.33, p < .01, but there was no eVect due to the Pre-discussion

Decision analysis

p > .10. Thus,

the Pre-discussion Decision manipulation did not inXu-

Decision manipulation, F (1, 187) D 0.22,

4 We seated person B facing the camera so that we could clearly monitor her or his attention to the other two members. Because the other members had their sides turned toward the camera, we were not able to reliably code their attention (see coding methods later in the manuscript).

We Wrst conducted a logistic regression of decision accuracy on stimulus set to assure that the stimulus set did not aVect the decision outcome. The test indicated there was no eVect of information condition on decisions (Wald test D 0.35, df D 1, p D .55). We then conducted the logistic regression on decision accuracy by Diversity Structure (crosscut, same, convergent) by Pre-discussion


J.E. Sawyer et al. / Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 99 (2006) 1–15

Table 1 Logistic regression of decisions on diversity structure and pre-discussion decision conditions

Number correct/total N (proportion correct)


Pre-discussion decision

No pre-discussion decision

Diversity structure eVect

Crosscut Same race Convergent Pre-discussion decision eVect

6/12 (.50)

11/13 (.85)

17/25 (.68)

2/10 (.20)

5/10 (.50)

7/20 (.35)

4/13 (.31)

4/11 (.36)

8/24 (.33)

12/35 (.34)

20/34 (.59)




Wald Test



EVect size

Parameter estimates, signiWcance tests, and Nagelkerke R 2 measure of eVect size ¤


Diversity structure Crosscut vs. Same Race Convergent vs. Same Race Pre-discussion decision Constant



























¤ The Nagelkerke R 2 for the combined structure and pre-discussion decision eVect size is .21.

Decision (yes, no). We conducted planned contrasts for convergent versus same-race and crosscut versus same- race conditions. The logistic regression is appropriate because all variables in the analysis are categorical. In Table 1, we present the count and percent of correct and incorrect responses by Diversity Structure and Pre-dis- cussion Decision conditions. Additionally, we report the parameter estimates for each hypothesis test along with Nagelkerke R 2 as a measure of eVect size for each eVect and for the full model (Tabachnik & Fidel, 1989). The signiWcant Diversity Structure parameter for crosscut compared with same race groups supports Hypothesis 1, indicating that crosscut performed better than same race groups. However, contrary to our expectation, same race did not perform better than convergent groups, partially disconWrming Hypothesis 1. Post hoc contrast indicated that crosscut performed signiWcantly better than conver-

p < .05) diversity

gent ( D 1.48, SE D .63, Wald D 5.48,

structure. Consistent with Hypothesis 2, the signiWcant parameter estimate for pre-discussion decisions indicates

that groups in the no Pre-discussion Decision condition made the correct choice more frequently than groups in the pre-discussion decision condition.

Analyses of talking and attending behavior

We conducted a 2 Pre-discussion Decision by 3 Diversity Structure by 2 Speaker (information insider[person A] vs. outsider[person C]) repeated mea- sures 5 ANOVA on the arcsine transformed proportion 6 of total discussion time the information insider (whose race varied across condition) talked compared to the

5 We used repeated measures ANOVA because we are comparing the talking time of two individuals who are members of the same group. Be- cause they are members of the same group, they are not independent.

6 We used the arsine transformation because the data are propor- tions. This transformation approximates the normal distribution as- sumed for the ANOVA statistics and does not alter the interpretation.

information outsider (whose race also varied across con- dition). There was a signiWcant main eVect for the repeated measures factor such that the information out- sider (M D .33) talked more than the information insider (M D .21), F (1, 25) D 13.95, p < .01, 2 D .36. There was a signiWcant Speaker by Diversity Structure interaction, F (2,25) D 4.24, p < .05, 2 D .25 (see Fig. 2). In the same race groups, information insiders and outsiders talked about the same. In the crosscut condition, the informa- tion outsider talked more than the insider, supporting Hypothesis 3. However, disconWrming Hypothesis 3, the information outsider also talked more in the convergent Diversity Structure groups. Recall in this condition the information outsider is also the racial outsider. We note that averages within the information subgroups are closer than averages within the racial subgroups, with information outsiders talking more than information insiders do, independent of race. Thus, the Wndings regarding the amount of information outsider talking is due to diversity structure, not race alone.

0.45 Racial 0.4 Majority 0.35 Racial 0.3 Minority 0.25 0.2 Racial Racial Majority 0.15 Minority

Diversity Structure Condition

Fig. 2. Proportion of discussion time the information outsider (O) talked compared to the information insider (I) who’s race varies as a function of diversity structure condition.

J.E. Sawyer et al. / Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 99 (2006) 1–15


Table 2 Test of post-test measures for the information outsider: culture condition by pre-decision


Dependent variable




Partial 2

Corrected model

Group identiWcation a Opportunity to inXuence b Process eVectiveness c Group identiWcation Opportunity to inXuence Process eVectiveness Group identiWcation Opportunity to inXuence Process eVectiveness Group identiWcation Opportunity to inXuence Process eVectiveness Group identiWcation Opportunity to inXuence Process eVectiveness


























Diversity structure













Pre-discussion decision













Diversity structure by pre-discussion decision













a R 2 D .26 (adjusted R 2 D .19).

b R 2 D .28 (adjusted R 2 D .21).

c R 2 D .14 (adjusted R 2 D .06).

We conducted a 2 Pre-discussion Decision by 3 Diversity Structure ANOVA on the arcsine transformed proportion of time the racial/information insider spent attending to the information outsider. There was a main eVect for Diversity Structure on attending, F (2, 35) D 3.90, p < .05, 2 D .18. Consistent with Hypoth- esis 4, the crosscut groups (41%) were signiWcantly diVer- ent from same race (25%) (p D .04). However, same race groups did not diVer from convergent groups (27%) (p D .82). Thus, while the information outsider talked more than the insider in both convergent and crosscut conditions did: the racial/information insider attended to the information outsider more in the crosscut than convergent or same race conditions.

Analysis of perceptions about the group

We conducted a 2 Pre-Discussion Decision by 3 Diversity Structure MANOVA on information outsid- ers’ Group IdentiWcation, Opportunity to InXuence, and Process EVectiveness. 7 The information outsider shared race with both other members in the same race condi- tion, shared race with one other member who held diVer- ent information in the crosscut condition, and shared neither race nor information with any other member in the convergent condition. The multivariate test was sig- niWcant for Diversity Structure (F (3,53) D 6.95, p < .01, 2 D .28). Table 2 shows the univariate test results for each of the dependent variables. Table 3 shows the coeYcient- reliability estimates, grand means and stan- dard deviations, inter-scale correlations, as well as means

7 Based on a prior reviewer’s comments, we conducted an analysis including all members’ perceptions of the group across all conditions. We found no diVerence across conditions except for the information outsider.

and the standard errors for each dependent variable by Diversity Structure. Pair-wise comparisons for eVects of Diversity Structure (convergent versus same and cross- cut versus same) indicated that the information outsider reported more Group IdentiWcation, greater Opportu- nity to InXuence, and greater Process EVectiveness in the crosscut than in the same race condition, partially sup- porting Hypotheses 5–7. However, the convergent condi- tion also produced greater opportunity to inXuence than did the same race condition. The convergent diversity structure condition did not diVer from same race on the other measures. In order to rule out the explanation that this eVect is due to being a racial minority (versus information out- sider) we conducted the same analysis with the atti- tudes of the racial minority member toward the group. Since there is no racial minority in the same race condi- tion this analysis compared crosscut with convergent Diversity Structure and Pre-discussion Decision condi- tions. The multivariate tests were not signiWcant. The only univariate test that was signiWcant was for Diver- sity Structure on perception of the decision process eVectiveness (F(1, 48) D 5.59, p D .02, 2 D .11). Racial minority members were more satisWed with the deci- sion process in the crosscut (M D 5.60, SE D .20) than in the convergent condition (M D 4.94, SE D .20). Thus, information outsiders feel more group identiWcation and ability to inXuence the group in crosscut versus other conditions, while racial minorities perceive less decision process eVectiveness in the convergent condi- tion compared to the crosscut condition. Racial minor- ities did not diVer on group identiWcation or perceived inXuence on the decision in the crosscut compared with convergent conditions. Thus, the Wndings relating atti- tudes to diversity structure condition are not due strictly to racial minority status.


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Table 3 Descriptive statistics for post-test measures

Mean, standard deviation, coeYcient- reliability and inter scale correlations







Group identiWcation (GI) Opportunity to inXuence (OI) Process eVectiveness













Dependent variable

Diversity structure

Main eVect for diversity structure

Mean post-test measures for the information outsider by diversity structure condition

Group identiWcation


6.02 (.16) b

Same Race

4.93 (.23)


5.32 (.17)

Opportunity to inXuence


6.21 (.16) b

Same Race

5.04 (.23)


5.77 (.17) a

Process eVectiveness


5.40 (.21) a

Same Race

4.66 (.30)


4.94 (.22)

Parentheses indicate standard errors. Comparisons are Convergent and Crosscut compared to Same Race.

a p < .05.

b p < .01.

Discussion and conclusions

Groups in which race crosscut job-function had greater decision accuracy than racially homogeneous groups while convergent and same race group perfor- mance did not diVer. The groups in this study whose members did not make a pre-discussion decision outper- formed groups whose members did record an individual decision prior to discussion. Crosscut Diversity Struc- ture with no Pre-discussion Decision was the only condi- tion in which groups signiWcantly outperformed random chance (.50) and outperformed individuals who had full information in the pilot testing. Only crosscut Diversity Structure with no Pre-discussion Decision resulted in the facilitative communication necessary to achieve the results desired of cross-functional groups. The Wndings for talking and attending behavior help us understand the role of racial and information outsid- ers. Recall that in the same race groups the information outsider is a majority race member, while in the conver- gent condition the information outsider diVers in race from the information insiders. In the crosscut condition, the information outsider is a majority race member while one of the information insiders is the minority race member. In both crosscut and convergent conditions, the information outsider talked more than the information insider of the opposite race. Racial minority and major- ity members are more similar within job-function assign- ment than are participants of the same race across job- function assignments. Similarly, attending diVered only by Diversity Structure, in which the racial/information insider attended to the information outsider more in the crosscut than same race condition, while convergent ver- sus same race did not diVer. Thus, the fact that conver- gent and same race groups did not diVer on participation

of the information outsider, or attending to the informa- tion outsider, conWrms that diversity structure, not race, is the critical factor in our Wndings. In our study, cross- cutting allows the job-function outsider to share racial group membership with one of the job-function sub- group members allowing them to be more persuasive (Van Knippenberg & Wilke, 1992). Our study showed that when race is crossed with job- function the information outsiders identiWed more with the group, perceived more opportunity to inXuence the group, and rated the process as more eVective than when all members were of the same race, or when race and job- function converged. The results of the video analysis indicated that these perceptions were accurate. The crosscut condition was the only condition in which the information outsider talked signiWcantly more than the insider, and was attended to the most. It was in the cross- cut condition that information outsiders had a link to the job-function subgroup via racial similarity with a subgroup member. These Wndings are consistent with the social categorization model (Brewer & Miller, 1984; Marcus-Newhall et al., 1993) and Lau and Murnin- ghan’s (1998) faultline analogy. The overlapping of group boundaries that exists with crossed categoriza- tions weakens faultlines. Contrary to our hypotheses, our research found no diVerence between convergent diversity structure and same race groups in decision accuracy or the processes that aVect it. Thus, convergence eliminated the potential positive eVects of diversity but did not lead to poorer performance than same race groups. We suspect this occurred because the locus of poor performance was the inability to share information. In our study, job-function (and thus information) was the source of one faultline. In the same race groups, the lack of a salient characteristic

J.E. Sawyer et al. / Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 99 (2006) 1–15


crossing the job-function faultline may have allowed the preferences generated by the faultline to be as strong as the race plus job-function faultline of the convergent groups. This suggests that race is not the critical dimen- sion in our Wndings: Diversity Structure is. Thus, crosscutting reduces category-based informa- tion processing and decreases the likelihood of commu- nication barriers formed by clear-cut group boundaries. The fact that job-function roles vary within race may reduce the assumed similarity among group members who share race and prime group members to expect diVerences in perspective within the racial pair. If job- function and demographic subgroups converge, diversity may actually limit pooling of the information that diver- sity can bring to the group. Our same race groups were similar to Gruenfeld et al. (1996) unfamiliar groups. Gruenfeld et al., found familiarity among group mem- bers allowed the group to transcend preferences due to information diVerences. Familiar groups pooled infor- mation while unfamiliar groups aggregated judgments. We believe that our crosscut condition had a similar eVect. Crosscutting appears to have facilitated the social integration (Harrison et al., 2002) and open communica- tion (Simons et al., 1999) necessary for diversity to ben- eWt group decisions. Our Wndings also provide a possible explanation for why prior research using the faultline analogy has found a non-linear relationship between faultline strength and group outcomes (Gibson & Vermeulen, 2003; Thatcher et al., 2003). In their measurement system, groups with a high degree of cross-subgroup alignments have moderate faultline strength. In our conceptualization, and Shaw’s (2004) measurement system, cross-subgroup alignment results in low faultline strength. The critical aspect in group performance and cohesion may not be the amount of diversity or homogeneity. The critical factor may be those salient attributes that cross, or transcend, social subgroups that allow the group members to think of themselves as a whole, rather than as subgroups within the group.

Implications for practice

Our research shows that one way to reduce the barri- ers to communication is to assure that attributes align members across subgroups. Thus, in a group composed of marketing and manufacturing representatives, having a racial minority who shares job-function with a racial majority member, or having a manufacturing represen- tative who shares race with a marketing representative may serve to open lines of communication. In groups where diverse members bring potentially diVerent infor- mation or viewpoints, our research and the theorizing of Lau and Murninghan (1998) suggests that the group would beneWt by identifying some characteristic that crosses subgroup faultlines. Gibson and Vermeulen (2003) echo this recommendation because they found

that moderately diverse groups, deWned as those in which characteristics overlap subgroups, perform better. This structure should allow for better group communi- cation and ultimately a better group product. Failure to structure the diversity dimensions of the group with cross category characteristics wastes the richness of the variation in knowledge and perspectives that diversity can bring to the group. Another way to improve group functioning is to establish a group norm that prevents members from coming to the group with a predetermined decision and focuses on exploring all relevant information by the

group. Maier (1963), in noting the propensity of individ- uals and groups to generate solutions prior to analyzing the problem, cautioned individuals and groups not to make choices prior to a thorough discussion of the prob- lem and the facts at hand. Our Wndings support his prop- osition. The negative eVect of pre-discussion decisions found in our study is consistent with prior research on the common knowledge eVect and the attentional focus model. That research has shown that individual judg- ments are given more weight in the group decision than the information available to the group as a whole (Gigone & Hastie, 1993) and that successful groups pool information rather than aggregating individual judg- ments (Gruenfeld et al., 1996). Individual judgments become an attentional Wlter through which information

is processed (Kelly & Karau, 1999). Thus, the absence of

a pre-discussion decision is one of the necessary condi- tions for optimal group performance.

Limitations and recommendations for future research

In this research, we used a decision task for which there is a binary choice. We did so because we wanted to assess decision accuracy on choice tasks similar to that done by Stasser and colleagues. However, judgment tasks in which the accuracy of judgments or decision tasks with multiple decision choices would provide a greater range of responses and potentially provide increased power to address similar questions. We also focus on just one element of diVerence in job-function diversity, that of information. Job functions bring with them a multitude of diVerences. This is why it would be impossible to conduct this research in a Weld setting. The ability to isolate a single characteristic of job-function, information relative to decision-making, allows direct tests of our hypotheses. In the Weld, the many job-func- tion diVerences would confound the method and make speciWc conclusions impossible. Our Wndings are limited in that they come from groups with short duration and with no history among their members. We expect that some of the eVects of sub- group boundaries, relationship, and task conXict on group performance change over time (Jehn & Mannix, 2001). Time may neutralize the eVects of surface level


J.E. Sawyer et al. / Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 99 (2006) 1–15

diversity (Harrison et al., 1998). However, we postulate that when surface level characteristics converge with deep level attitude or value diVerences, time may accen- tuate those eVects as deep level diVerences are uncovered which reinforce the surface level categorization. Future research needs to investigate information sharing in groups over time or in which members have a history together. Unfortunately, this is a diYcult task to accom- plish in the laboratory. Field research provides a better context to test time-related eVects. However, Weld researchers seldom have the freedom to compose groups to test speciWc group composition hypotheses or ran- domly assign groups to tasks. Researchers need to look for settings in which they can assess group composition variations and communication. Another limitation of our research is that our groups were composed such that the racial majority was always White Americans and the minority member was always a social minority. Racial minorities bear the burden of assumed status and power diVerences. Research using the minimal group paradigm (Gaertner & Insko, 2000; Hertel & Kerr, 2001) suggests that convergent subgroups have negative eVects even when there is no presumption of sta- tus or power diVerences, but what happens when the sta- tus or power diVerences reverse? What would happen if the racial minority in our groups were a social majority member (e.g., a single White among a group of African- Americans)? This is an excellent question for future research. While we believe that our Wndings will generalize to a variety of groups in which social categories connote diVerences in status, we need further research to test the generalizability of our Wndings to other compositions such as where White Americans are the cultural outsiders, or where other inherent characteristics such as gender form the basis of subgroup diVerences. As researchers continue to examine the tendency of decision-making groups to fall short of optimal perfor- mance, they should identify factors that could allow groups to excel. The future of group decision-making research and the study of demographic and functional diversity need to converge to continue this process of discovering the true potential of diverse groups.


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