Deception in Intergroup Communication
- Norah E. DunbarNorah E. DunbarDepartment of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara
Deception is the act of knowingly leading another person or persons to hold a false belief. Deception researchers have examined deception primarily as an interpersonal action between one person and another in an interpersonal context. The focus has been on the detectability of deception through verbal or nonverbal cues and the relational consequences of discovered deception in myriad situations. Rarely has deception been explored at the intergroup level. Intergroup deception consists of one group (or a representative of a group) lying to another during a situation in which social categories are highly salient. The primary difference between intergroup deception and interpersonal deception is to be found in the identity for each actor. Interpersonal deception suggests a shared underlying identity, while intergroup deception implies divergent identities. Politicians who lie to their constituents, a union representative lying to the management during a labor negotiation, or two ambassadors lying to each other while attempting to resolve a conflict between their two nations each would be considered intergroup lies if actors see themselves as primarily representing their larger social group rather than themselves as individuals. While studies of intergroup deceptions are relatively rare, there has been important work done in at least three different contexts: in communication between members of different cultures, communication between political or military factions, and communication between corporate entities where each actor represents not only their personal interests, but also those of their organization. In these cases, the communicators each represent a potentially hostile “other.” Earning trust in a situation of out-group engagement is a difficult endeavor, and the study of intergroup deception explores how trust is earned in such situations and how deceptive communication is judged when the parties represent opposing forces.