What Your Friend Group Says About Your Values

In case you were wondering how your friends reflect upon you, a new study from Wellesley College looked at the relationship between how diverse your friend group is and how much value you place on diversity.

If your posse includes people from all walks of life — in terms of race, religion, and class — then congratulations: You care about diversity more than anyone in the world.

But even if you do have quite the assortment of friends, this is probably not the case — mostly because it's virtually impossible.

Lead author Angela Bahns knew that starting a dialogue between people of varying backgrounds and beliefs can reduce prejudice, but, she asked, can positive beliefs about diversity increase the likelihood that people seek out diverse friends?

And according to her findings, published in the journal Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, the answer is yes.

This was the researchers' process, according to the press release:

Individual attitudes and beliefs about a wide range of sociopolitical topics, including birth control, gay marriage, and prejudice towards various social groups, as well as beliefs about the value of social difference were measured by questionnaires distributed to pairs of friends in two neighborhoods of Boston, Jamaica Plain and the North End. The two communities were chosen for their high and low degrees of racial and income diversity, respectively. Although participants in the more diverse Jamaica Plain on average valued diversity more highly, participants in both neighborhoods who recognized the benefits of diversity were more likely to have diverse friendships.

This may sound obvious — that those who understand why diversity is so important would seek diverse friendships — but there seems to be conflicting findings in this area of research. A large body of suggests that, for the most part, people tend to make flock to those who are similar to them — especially in larger and diverse communities. And on the other hand, studies have found that racially diverse communities are more likely to promote interracial friendships.

This study serves to bridge the gap between these studies, by suggesting that diverse communities offer greater opportunity to seek either similar or diverse friends.

But, perhaps most importantly, the study shows that the way we individually think of diversity determines what kinds of people we want to spend time with. In other words, it's our responsibility to open up our own minds.

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