Impact of Diversity in Networks on Academic Performance of Management Students.



Diversity signifies the differences between the individuals based on any attribute, which may result in the perception of the self-being different from another person (e.g., Jackson, 1992; Triandis, 1994; Williams & O'Reilly, 1998). Practically, diversity can be the difference between two persons based on any dimension. It can be based on age, nationality, religious background, functional background, task skills, relational skills, etc. Bowman (2010) used metaanalytic techniques to explore the relationship between college diversity experiences and cognitive development, which provided strong evidence that several types of diversity experiences--interpersonal interactions with racial and nonracial diversity, diversity coursework, and diversity workshops--are positively related to cognitive development. Interpersonal interactions with racial diversity are more strongly linked with cognitive growth. Diversity improves the learning process (Hansen et al., 2006; Gurin & Lopez, 2004; Milem et al., 2005).

The important question comes here is: how does diversity lead to positive changes in cognition? The theoretical link between diversity and cognition has been delineated by Gurin and colleagues (Gurin, 1999; Gurin et al., 2002), who framed their argument for the educational importance of college diversity in terms of seminal theories of cognitive development (Erikson, 1946; Piaget, 1971, 1985; Ruble & Stout, 1994). The explanation of cognition development due to diversity has the fundamental roots in the two main types of thinking: controlled thinking and automatic thinking. The sameness of the surroundings or the encounter with the similar things (people with similar attitudes, background, gender, race, culture) all the time habituates the mind/cognition to react in the same way. This leads to automatic thinking. In one early study indicating the pervasiveness of automatic thinking, Langer (1978) described many positive benefits derived from using active, effortful, conscious modes of thought (controlled thinking). She also argued that such thinking helps people develop new ideas and ways of processing information that may have been available to them but were not often used. What kind of situations evokes an effortful, mindful thought process? Coser (1975) calls complex social structures --situations where one encounters people who are unfamiliar to us when these people challenge us to think or act in new ways when people and relationships change and thus produce unpredictability, and when people we encounter hold different expectations of us evoke effortful thinking. Langer (1978) also contended that people would engage in active, effortful, conscious modes of thought when they encounter a situation for which they have no script or when the environment demands more than their current scripts provide, such as an encounter discrepant with their experience. Development theorists (Erikson, 1946; Piaget, 1971; 1985; Ruble, 1994) emphasized that the discrepancy, tension, and discontinuity experienced due to such encounters lead to cognitive growth. Piaget (1985) termed this process disequilibrium. Gurin et al. (2002), based on these theories, suggested the features of the diverse student body that will foster active thinking and personal development. These features are:

* Novelty and unfamiliarity that occurs upon the transition to college.

* Opportunities to identify discrepancies between students with distinct precollege social experiences.

* Diversity as a source of multiple and different perspectives.

Bowman (2010) argued that the repeated exposure to complex and novel situations through diversity interactions often forces students to question their beliefs and might lead to a general tendency toward drawing complex and multifaceted attributions (i.e., greater attributional complexity).


A social network is a social structure made up of individuals (or organizations) called "nodes", which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige (Kosorukoff, 2011). A social network consists of a set of actors ("nodes") and the relations ("ties" or "edges") between these actors (Wasserman & Faust, 1994). The ties can exist between two individuals or more than that, between groups, between communities or between nations. Kosorukoff (2011) noted that research in a number of academic fields has shown that social networks operate on many levels, from families up to the level of nations, and play a critical role in determining the way problems are solved, organizations are run, and the degree to which individuals succeed in achieving their goals.

Extensive research has been done on the functionality and significance of social networks (Healy & Cote, 2001; Woolcock, 2001). In the field of education, social networks have been found to result in greater educational achievement (Halpern, 1999; Zimmerman, 2003; Sacerdote, 2001; Lin, 2005; Hanushek et al., 2003). The benefits of social networks are manifolds. Not only it provides emotional and social support, but in higher education, it provides resources that are contextually significant. For example, many times, important books or references for readings, previous years question papers, exams pattern, useful contacts needed for leadership roles are not available to anyone and everyone. It is the networks with the people with resources that enhance or results in the achievement which could not have been possible without these networks. Also, the influence or effects of peers on educational achievement has long been debated. Lin (2005), by using a dataset from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), specified peers as actual friendship networks. It was found that peers can have a substantial influence on one's academic achievement. De Giorgi et al. (2007) found that one is more likely to choose a major when many of his/her peers make the same choice. They estimated that, when it diverts students from majors in which they seem to have a relative ability advantage, this effect leads to lower average grades and graduation mark, a penalty that could cost up to 1,117 USD a year in the labor market.

Interaction between Diversity & Network

Both diversity and networks are ubiquitous. Can we find any place where we cannot see the element of diversity? There is nothing completely homogeneous. It is just a matter of what type of diversity. From one lens or the other, the factors of differentiation between two individuals or two groups or two units can always be found. It depends on the perspective from which we are arguing the concept of diversity.

Human beings are always tied in some way or the other, within a group. It can be transactive ties, emotional ties, negative ties, or somewhere in between. Can we talk about any group without a tie? Not only diversity but the pattern of diversity or how diverse elements are tied also becomes important. Diversity or network in isolation is a partial revelation. What if within a diverse group, the members approach or are strongly tied to people who share some common background (educational, regional, workplace, etc.). Diversity is an individual-level construct, but how these individuals are tied together? People from a diverse background can come together, but the significant question is: are they tied together? In diverse groups, this may mean that people distinguish subgroups within the workgroup. People tend to favor in-group members over out-group members, to trust in-group members more, and to be more willing to cooperate with them (Brewer & Brown, 1998; Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Diversity, in the real sense, would be more effective only when diverse people are tied together. In a learning environment or educational context, diversity and network becomes two important features as people from a different background might come together. Still, in reality, people with similar background might be tied together. So, it becomes more important to study how a group of people is tied together and how that affects the performance of the students.

Hypothesis Generation


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