Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 37

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE Within the body of Christ, perceptions of outgroup homogeneity are significantly contributing to division. For example, I recently worked with a predominantly white Christian organization that was attempting to address its poor track record of attracting and retaining female and ethnically diverse participants. Before we implemented any “diversity” programs, I suggested that we first survey the few women and ethnic minorities who had recently interacted with the organization in order to assess their perceptions of it. Once we had the data in hand, we could use it to devise an effective plan for organizational change that would address this diversity issue. However, when the white, male leader of the organization heard my suggestion, he scoffed, “Why bother spending resources on collecting data from ethnic minorities? I can probably tell you what they’re thinking.” How could a white, male leader of an organization that admittedly did not have a successful history of engaging women and ethnic minorities honestly think that he could estimate the rich and varied perspectives of women and minorities? The answer is simple: because he had succumbed to perceptions of outgroup homogeneity. He did not perceive the outgroup as rich, varied, and as one that offered a valuable perspective that belonged at the table. Rather, he perceived it as homogenous and simple—so simple that he thought he could address the women and ethnic minority problem without help from women or ethnic minorities. By perceiving the ingroup as heterogenous and the outgroup as homogenous, group members are less likely to believe that their group would benefit from more diversity, more likely to perceive the outgroup in unflattering and oversimplified ways, and more likely to believe that the outgroup has very little to offer them. In addition to the outgroup homogeneity effect, nonconscious cognitive processes also negatively influence meta-perceptions, which lead to even greater intergroup division. While perceptions are the way individuals view the ingroup and outgroup, meta-perceptions (in this c ase) are the way by which individuals think the outgroup perceives their ingroup. When it comes to how we relate to other groups, what we think of them is just as important as what we think they think of us. If group members miscalculate outgroup members’ perceptions of the ingroup, they are significantly more likely to misunderstand outgroup members during intergroup interactions. Unfortunately, meta-perceptions are wrought with miscalculations.29 Most Social Psychology 14, no. 2 (1978): 148–162; Mark Snyder and William B. Swann, “Hypothesis-Testing Processes in Social Interaction,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36, no. 11 (1978): 1202–1212. 29. Vincent Y. Yzerbyt, Charles M. Judd, and Dominique Muller, “How Do They See Us? The Vicissitudes of Metaperception in Intergroup Relations,” in Demoulin, Leyens, and Dovidio, Intergroup Misunderstandings, 63–84. 36