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Federica Pieragostini, Bruno Gabriel Salvador Casara, and Caterina Suitner

Globalization is making interethnic communication an increasingly widespread issue. The reduction of actual and psychological distances due to migratory flows and media communication increases contact opportunities between individuals from different ethnic groups. Communication between members belonging to different ethnic groups can also be considered a challenge as it brings in more general intergroup controversies. Ethnicity affects both verbal and nonverbal communication at different intensity levels. For example, using verbal communication, interethnic conflict may emerge through the use of hate speech, and—at a lower intensity level—may also emerge by the subtle use of pronouns (e.g., avoiding the use of “we” to exclude members of other groups). Similarly, in nonverbal communication, interethnic conflicts may strongly be evident in explicit exclusion behaviors, but also in subtler cues such as by enhancing spatial distance from persons belonging to other groups. Ethnic identities and their implications are also evident in and influenced by mass media narratives, which mirror, establish, and perpetuate inequalities and discrimination. Interethnic communication is therefore a challenge and an opportunity to understand and to improve relationships between ethnic groups.


Karyn Ogata Jones and Lee Crandall

Intergroup communication adds to the general knowledge about disability by summarizing key areas in research and commentary. Intergroup communication is discussed in terms of how stigma affects identification, perception, and communication. Scholarship examining efforts to measure attitudes these groups have about each other, and the effects of inter-group communication on attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, is reviewed. Scholarly commentary plays a role in the complicated relationship between identity and disability, and how this relationship impacts intergroup interactions, as well as present a summary of studies examining intergroup communication and disability in interpersonal, group, mediated, and professional settings. Illustrations from social media are provided to show how mediated inter-group communication can impact perceptions and knowledge. Studies are presented from an international perspective, allowing for culturally based comparisons.


Fabio Lorenzi-Cioldi

Group status refers to the extent to which members of a group are respected and admired by others. All known societies are characterized by status stratifications, with the most advantaged groups enjoying a more-than-fair share of the total wealth and prestige. Most ordinary criteria to categorize people into groups possess value connotations that eventually uphold prestige hierarchies. Gender, ethnicity, and age—but also disability, weight, sexual orientation, and of course education, income, and class background—are major criteria of social stratification. Established status characteristics may consist of ascribed (e.g., gender) or achieved (e.g., occupation) qualities. They may further consist of groups with more (e.g., gender) or less (e.g., race, social class) contact and mutual interdependence. Status hierarchies are manifold, and the best metaphor encompassing their diversity is that of a vertical dimension that ranks groups’ status and prestige. Generally, members of high-status groups praise individualistic and autonomous self-conceptions and show self-directedness, whereas the opposite tendencies prevail toward the bottom of the status hierarchy. Socialization practices (e.g., parental education, peers, school, and the workplace) take center stage in explaining how members of status groups acquire these contrasting habits and characteristics. However, recent social psychological research sheds light on more general processes related to how people interpret and react to specific situations. Major contributions of social psychological analyses of group status are found in social identity theory, social role theory, status construction theory, the stereotype content model, and social dominance and system justification theories. Despite substantial differences, these perspectives complement each other to account for the formation, the maintenance, and the change of status hierarchies. Status hierarchies are not only pervasive and inevitable but also crucial in their consequences. Status contributes to a wealth of phenomena, including subjective well-being, mental, and physical health, etc. Important for the present discussion is research investigating how group status affects verbal and nonverbal communication between members of high- and low-status groups.


Abigail R. Corrington, Mikki Hebl, and Jo-Ann Tsang

A growing number of studies are utilizing different sorts of behavioral indicators as measures of prejudice and discrimination. Although there are few foolproof behavioral indicators of discrimination (cf. verbal articulations of overt discrimination), patterns of behaviors can often be reliable indicators of discrimination. There are three sets of behavioral indicators. First, there are verbal behaviors such as overt insults or the use of pejorative words to describe stigmatized individuals. Such verbal statements, particularly when overt, make attributions of perceiver prejudice very straightforward. Such exchanges appear to be on the rise and are particularly worthy of study following the apparent 2016 “whitelash” and resistance to acting in ways deemed to be “politically correct.” Other forms of verbal behaviors involve more indirect expressions of prejudice, such as ambiguous comments and subjective references. Second, there are paraverbal behaviors that may index discrimination. For instance, individuals’ tone and pacing of speech may intentionally or unintentionally signal their disapproval or dislike of a stigmatized target. These behaviors are less commonly studied by social scientists but provide indicators about an individual’s intentions toward a stigmatized target. Third and finally, there are both nonverbal microbehaviors (e.g., gestures, eye contact) and macrobehaviors (e.g., avoidance, helping behavior). Behavioral measures—both classic and more state-of-the-art—that might serve as indicators of discrimination have been identified in recent research, and researchers should continue to learn more about them and use them.


Fabio Fasoli

Sexual orientation is a private matter that individuals can decide to disclose or conceal. Nevertheless, when interacting with others, people look for cues of sexual orientation. Hence, the person’s face, voice, or non-verbal behavior is taken as a cue revealing sexual orientation. As research on “gaydar” has shown, this detecting ability can sometimes be accurate or stereotype-based. Sometimes gay, lesbian, and bisexual people themselves intentionally communicate their sexual identity explicitly or through more subtle cues. Intentional or not, several cues are taken as communicating sexual orientation with the consequences of shaping interpersonal interactions. Identifying someone as gay or lesbian has several implications. On the one hand, it leads straight men and women to non-verbally behave differently than when interacting with other straight individuals (e.g., more physical distance, more self-touching). On the other hand, it also affects verbal communication (e.g., topics of conversation, questions, and statements). The harshest consequence is hate speech and homophobic language. Research has shown that being labeled as “faggot” or “dyke” not only negatively affects those who are the target of such verbal derogation but also negatively impacts on straight bystanders. Indeed, gay and lesbian targets of homophobic language report a lower level of well-being and self-acceptance, while being exposed to such language increases prejudice toward gay men and lesbians among straight people. In the case of straight men, the use of homophobic language is often associated with identity self-affirmation and self-presentation. Interestingly, a recent trend among gay people has been noticed: they use homophobic labels among them as a form of “reclaimed language,” meaning that these derogatory terms are used with a different intent and reframed in a more positive way. Moreover, communicating sexual orientation can increase self-acceptance, social support, and positive social comparison among gay men and lesbians and can also increase positive attitudes toward gay people, especially when it happens with friends and family members.