Psychology Wiki

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Social psychology: Altruism · Attribution · Attitudes · Conformity · Discrimination · Groups · Interpersonal relations · Obedience · Prejudice · Norms · Perception · Index · Outline

The outgroup homogeneity bias or out-group homogeneity effect is one's perception of out-group members as more similar to one another than are in-group members, e.g. "they are alike; we are diverse".[1] The term "outgroup homogeneity effect", or "relative outgroup homogeneity" has been explicitly contrasted with "outgroup homogeneity" in general,[2] the latter referring to perceived outgroup variability unrelated to perceptions of the ingroup.

The out-group homogeneity effect is part of a broader field of research that examines perceived group variability.[3] This area includes in-group homogeneity effects as well as out-group homogeneity effects, and it also deals with perceived group variability effects that are not linked to in-group/out-group membership, such as effects that are related to the power, status, and size of groups.

The out-group homogeneity effect has been found using a wide variety of different social groups, from political and racial groups to age and gender groups.[4]

The implications of this effect on stereotyping have been noted.[5] Perceivers tend to have impressions about the diversity or variability of group members around those central tendencies or typical attributes of those group members. Thus, outgroup stereotypicality judgments are overestimated, supporting the view that out-group stereotypes are overgeneralizations.[6]

The outgroup homogeneity effect is sometimes referred to as "outgroup homogeneity bias". Such nomenclature hints at a broader meta-theoretical debate that is present in the field of social psychology. This debate centres on the validity of heightened perceptions of ingroup and outgroup homogeneity, where some researchers view the homogeneity effect as an example of cognitive bias and error, while other researchers view the effect as an example of normal and often adaptive social perception.[2]

Empirical support

In an experiment, researchers revealed that people of other races do seem to look more alike than members of one's own race. When white students were shown faces of a few white and a few black individuals, they later more accurately recognized white faces they had seen and often falsely recognized black faces not seen before. The opposite results were found when subjects consisted of black individuals.[7]

Another example of this phenomenon comes from a study where researchers asked 90 sorority members to judge the degree of within-group similarity for their own and 2 other groups. It was found that every participant judged their own sorority members to be more dissimilar than the members of the other groups.[8]


This bias was found to be unrelated to the number of group and non-group members individuals knew. One might think that people thought members of their own groups were more varied and different simply because they knew them better and thus have more information about ingroups,[9] but this is actually not the case. The out-group homogeneity bias was found between groups such as "men" and "women" who obviously interact frequently[10]

Elsewhere, this difference is attributed to differences in how people store or process in-group versus out-group information.[11][12] However, this concept has been challenged due to some cases in which in-groups view themselves as homogeneous. Researchers have postulated that such an effect is present when viewing a group as homogeneous helps to promote in-group solidarity.[13] Experiments on the topic found that in-group homogeneity is displayed when people who highly identify with a group are presented with stereotypical information about that group.[14]

A self-categorization theory account

Self-categorization theory attributes the outgroup homogeneity effect to the differing contexts that are present when perceiving outgroups and ingroups.[2][15] For outgroups, a perceiver will experience an intergroup context and therefore attend to differences between the two groups. Consequently, less attention is paid to differences between outgroup members and this leads to perceptions of outgroup homogeneity. When perceiving ingroup members a perceiver may experience either an intergroup context or an intragroup context. In an intergroup context the ingroup would also be predicted to be seen as comparatively homogeneous as the perceiver attends to the differences between “us” and “them” (in other words, depersonalization occurs). However, in an intragroup context the perceiver may be motivated to attend to differences with the group (between “me” and “others in the group”) leading to perceptions of comparative ingroup heterogeneity. As perceivers are less often motivated to perform intra-group outgroup comparison, this leads to an overall outgroup homogeneity effect.

The self-categorization theory account is supported by evidence showing that in an intergroup context both the ingroup and outgroup will be perceived as more homogenous, while when judged in isolation the ingroup will be perceived as comparatively heterogeneous.[16][17] The self-categorization theory account eliminates the need to posit differing processing mechanisms for ingroups and outroups, as well as accounting for findings of outgroup homogeneity in the minimal group paradigm.[15]

A social identity theory account

Another body of research looked at ingroup and outgroup homogeneity from the perspective of social identity theory.[2] While complementary to the self-categorization theory account, this body of research was concerned more with specific homogeneity effects associated with the motivations of perceivers. They derived from social identity theory the prediction that comparative ingroup homogeneity will at times arise due to demands to establish a positive and distinct social identity. For example, members of minority groups would be particularly likely to accentuate intragroup solidity through the emphasis of ingroup homogeneity. This is because minority group members, due to their minority status, are likely to experience threat to their self-esteem. This was empirically supported.[18]

Within the same tradition it was also hypothesised that an ingroup homogeneity effect would emerge on ingroup defining dimensions for both minority and majority group members. This too was empirically supported.[19] Recent research also has reaffirmed that this effect of in-group homogeneity on in-group defining dimensions and out-group homogeneity on out-group defining dimensions may occur because people use their ratings of perceived group variability to express the extent to which social groups possess specific characteristics.[5] Like the self-categorization theory account, this recent research also suggests that the effect may occur independent of the motivational concerns described in social identity theory.[20]

See also


A Mendeley collection of over 70 research papers that deal with perceived group variability, in-group homogeneity, and out-group homogeneity.


  1. (1980). The perception of variability within in-groups and out-groups: Implications for the law of small numbers.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38 (1): 141–152.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 (1996). Social identity, self-categorization, and the perceived homogeneity of ingroups and outgroups: The interaction between social motivation and cognition. Handbook of motivation and cognition: The interpersonal context, Handbook of motivation and cognition 3: 182–222.
  3. (2012). They're all the same!...but for several different reasons: A review of the multicausal nature of perceived group variability. Current Directions in Psychological Science 21: 367–372.
  4. Rubin, M., Hewstone, M., Crisp, R. J., Voci, A., & Richards, Z. (2004). Gender out-group homogeneity: The roles of differential familiarity, gender differences, and group size. In V. Yzerbyt, C. M. Judd, & O. Corneille (Eds.), The psychology of group perception: Perceived variability, entitativity, and essentialism (pp. 203-220). New York: Psychology Press. [View]
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rubin, Mark (1 January 2007). Why Do People Perceive Ingroup Homogeneity on Ingroup Traits and Outgroup Homogeneity on Outgroup Traits?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 33 (1): 31–42.
  6. (1991). Accuracy in the judgment of in-group and out-group variability.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 61 (3): 366–379.
  7. (1981). Depth of processing in response to own and other race faces.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 7: 475–480.
  8. (1982). Perception of out-group homogeneity and level of social categorization.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 42: 1051–1068.
  9. Linville, Patricia W. (1 August 1989). Perceived distributions of the characteristics of in-group and out-group members: Empirical evidence and a computer simulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57 (2): 165–188.
  10. Rubin, M., Hewstone, M., Crisp, R. J., Voci, A., & Richards, Z. (2004). Gender out-group homogeneity: The roles of differential familiarity, gender differences, and group size. In V. Yzerbyt, C. M. Judd, & O. Corneille (Eds.), The psychology of group perception: Perceived variability, entitativity, and essentialism (pp. 203-220). New York: Psychology Press. [View]
  11. Park, Bernadette (1 August 1990). Measures and models of perceived group variability. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 59 (2): 173–191.
  12. Ostrom, Thomas M. (1 January 1993). Differential processing of in-group and outgroup information.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64 (1): 21–34.
  13. Lee, Yueh-Ting (1 September 1993). Determinants of ingroup and outgroup perceptions of heterogeneity: An investigation of Sino-American stereotypes.. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 24 (3): 298–318.
  14. De Cremer, David (1 August 2001). Perceptions of group homogeneity as a function of social comparison: The mediating role of group identity. Current Psychology 20 (2): 138–146.
  15. 15.0 15.1 McGarty, C. (1999). Categorization in social psychology, London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publications.
  16. Halsam, S. A. (1995). Social categorization and group homogeneity: changes in the perceived applicability of stereotype content as a function of comparative context and trait favourableness. British Journal of Social Psychology 34 (2): 139–160.
  17. Halsam, S. A. (1995). "Social identity, self-categorization and the perceived homogeneity of ingroups and outgroups: the interaction between social motivation and cognition" Handbook of Motivation and Cognition, 182–222, New York: Guilford.
  18. (1987). Perceived intragroup homogeneity in minority-majority contexts.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 53: 703–711.
  19. (1992). The perception of ingroup and outgroup homogeneity: Reintroducing the social context. European review of Social Psychology 3: 1–30.
  20. (2010). The central tendency of a social group can affect ratings of its intragroup variability in the absence of social identity concerns. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 46: 410–415.

Further reading

  • (1989). Perceptions of Ingroup and Outgroup Variability: A Meta-Analytic Integration. Basic and Applied Social Psychology 10 (3): 233–252.
  • Quattrone, G. A. (1986). "On the perception of a group's variability" Psychology of intergroup relations, 2nd, Chicago: Nelson-Hall.