Skip to main content

Please enter a keyword and click the arrow to search the site

Blurred lines: how the collectivism norm operates through group perceived diversity to boost or harm group performance in Himalayan mountain climbing


Organization Science


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Chatman J;Greer L;Sherman E L;Doerr B

Publication Year



We develop and test a theory that reconciles contradictions in how collectivistic norms influence group performance. We draw on the perceived diversity literature to hypothesize that collectivistic norms cause group members to “blur” demographic differences, resulting in a shared perception that group members are more similar to one another than they actually are. Whether this benefits or harms group performance depends on the level of objective diversity in the group and the relevance of the perceived diversity attribute for accomplishing the group’s task. For conjunctive tasks, the group’s performance is determined by its weakest member, and high levels of cohesion are needed. Our theory suggests that collectivism benefits group conjunctive performance when objective national diversity is high by blurring divisive relational differences but has no effect in groups with low objective national diversity. In contrast, for disjunctive tasks, the group’s performance is determined by its best member, and we predict that collectivism harms group disjunctive performance when objective expertness diversity is high by blurring differences in task-relevant expertness, but has no effect in groups with low objective expertness diversity. We find support for our theory in two studies, including an archival study of 5,214 Himalayan climbing groups and a laboratory experiment assessing 356 groups. Our results show that collectivism has benefits and detriments for diverse groups, and that these contradictory effects can be understood by identifying how the collectivistic blurring of perceived group diversity helps or hurts groups based on the type of tasks on which they are working.

Available on ECCH


Select up to 4 programmes to compare

Select one more to compare
subscribe_image_desktop 5949B9BFE33243D782D1C7A17E3345D0

Sign up to receive our latest news and business thinking direct to your inbox


Sign up to receive our latest course information and business thinking

Leave your details above if you would like to receive emails containing the latest thought leadership, invitations to events and news about courses that could enhance your career. If you would prefer not to receive our emails, you can still access the case study by clicking the button below. You can opt-out of receiving our emails at any time by visiting: or by unsubscribing through the link provided in our emails. View our Privacy Policy for more information on your rights.