Study Shows Teams That Look Alike Are Perceived As More Effective

Photos of diverse and dynamic groups have long been staples of marketing materials, brochures and websites. But according to recent research, people perceive teams that look alike as more effective than those who represent a diverse group.

“People are social animals, and they’re prone to drawing inferences about personalities and abilities based on appearance," says Fan Liu, assistant professor of management, marketing and decision sciences at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y., and co-author of the paper “From Similitude to Success: The Effects of Facial Resemblance on Perceptions of Team Effectiveness.” “Our research shows that facial resemblance is an important social cue for evaluating and intuiting the effectiveness of a team."

The researchers conducted four experiments in which they manipulated photos of groups of people to increase facial resemblance. In some, they made the faces contain 10 percent of the other person’s face, and in others, 30 percent.

In one study, for example, they presented respondents with two photos of NBA players, specifically, Miami Heat teammates, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. The researchers subtly increased the facial resemblance of the two either 10 or 30 percent. Randomly assigned either the low- or high-resemblance pair, respondents then rated the team on competency, capability and competitiveness. The respondents who saw the high-resemblance images rated the team as being more effective than those who saw the low-resemblance images.

The researchers conducted similar experiments with photos representing teams of real estate agents, inventors on Kickstarter, or lawyers. All had similar results: the groups that looked alike were seen as more effective.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied and was co-authored by Ze Wang and Xin He. 

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By: Fan Liu
Adelphi University
Assistant Professor