Our cognitive system is tuned toward spotting the uncommon and unexpected. We propose that individuals coming from minority groups are, by definition, just that—uncommon and often unexpected. Consequently, they are psychologically salient in perception, memory, and visual awareness. This minority salience creates a tendency to overestimate the prevalence of minorities, leading to an erroneous picture of our social environments—an illusion of diversity. In 12 experiments with 942 participants, we found evidence that the presence of minority group members is indeed overestimated in memory and perception and that masked images of minority group members are prioritized for visual awareness. These findings were consistent when participants were members of both the majority group and the minority group. Moreover, this overestimated prevalence of minorities led to decreased support for diversity-promoting policies. We discuss the theoretical implications of the illusion of diversity and how it may inform more equitable and inclusive decision-making.
|Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
|Published - 22 Mar 2022
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- Crowd perception
- Minority salience
- Overestimation of minorities
- Social perception