Suffering from ... homophily?

This is the theory that birds of a feather flock together.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

So, though you think you are so unique, open and liberal in your attitude to other people, homophily (love of the same) proves otherwise. We are attracted to those who dress like us, think like us, laugh at the same jokes and share our interests. This is, basically, not very good news. As every university don knows, it's diversity that sparks the most interesting debate and fosters the broadest education, yet students naturally gravitate to other students who are just like themselves. In offices, homophily remains rampant, no matter how hard Human Resources tries to combat the disorder. Do you play golf? Great, come right in. Homophily affects the sexes just as much: women gravitate to other women in the cafeteria and - guess what? - if these other women have kids, they become instant best friends. How does one encourage humans to take an interest in people who are different from themselves? This is tricky. Start by forbidding candidates to talk about schools, sports, holidays, upbringing, children or even what neighbourhood they live in. Enforce a uniform dress code. Then, if you're lucky, you might end up with a very diverse group of interesting people who have nothing to talk about.

- Helen Kirwan-Taylor -

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