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Psychol Rev. 2019 Oct 3. doi: 10.1037/rev0000160. [Epub ahead of print]

An information sampling explanation for the in-group heterogeneity effect.

Author information

Center for Adaptive Rationality, Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
Department of Economics and Business, Pompeu Fabra University.


People often perceive their in-groups as more heterogeneous than their out-groups. We propose an information sampling explanation for this in-group heterogeneity effect. We note that people frequently obtain larger samples of information about in-groups than about out-groups. Using computer simulations, we show that this asymmetry in sample sizes implies the in-group heterogeneity effect under a wide range of assumptions about how experience affects perceived variability. This is the case even when perceived variability is the outcome of rational information processing, implying that the structure of the environment is sufficient to explain the emergence of the in-group heterogeneity effect. A key assumption of our explanation is that perceived group variability depends on the size of the sample observed about this group. We provide evidence in support for this assumption in two experiments. Our results considerably expand the scope and relevance of a prior sampling explanation proposed by Linville, Fischer, and Salovey (1989). They also complement other explanations that proposed that information about in-groups and out-groups is processed differently. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).


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