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Abstract

Thirty seven academics participated in a field study in which perceptions of the size and attributes of a majority and minority group were obtained. (The groups concerned were male and female academics at a British university). These observations were used to examine the phenomenon of illusory correlation, and to test hypotheses concerning the perceived homogeneity and competence of ingroup and outgroup in majority-minority contexts. To test for the illusory correlation effect estimates of the numbers of male and female senior staff were elicited. These estimates were consistently inaccurate, producing a lower perceived correlation between gender and seniority than actually existed. Measures of intragroup homogeneity revealed that, as predicted from previous research, members of the minority group saw their own group as more homogeneous than the outgroup. For majorty group members the reverse was true. The intergroup evaluations generally favoured the minority group; this was especially evident in the evaluations from the minority group members themselves. Possible explanations of these findings and their correspondence with those obtained from laboratory research are discussed.