Intergroup anxiety is a form of restlessness and negative feeling caused by communicating with someone with a different social and cultural identity. Just like any other form of anxiety, intergroup anxiety has negative consequences, such as disability in social interactions, weak cognitive performance, and even life consequences. Intergroup anxiety is the result of fear of being disapproved, embarrassed, and rejected across different racial, ethnic, religious, and social groups’ interactions. Theoretically, intergroup anxiety is influenced by the previous experiences one has had with the members of other groups, one’s knowledge of other groups, and the situation in which one interacts with other groups. Intergroup anxiety has behavioral, cognitive, and affective consequences. There are different theories of communication that explain the nature and function of intergroup anxiety. Uncertainty reduction theory, for example, defines anxiety as a result of uncertainty and asserts that to maintain communication, parties should decrease their uncertainty and consequently their anxiety. Anxiety/uncertainty management theory focuses on anxiety and argues that to have effective communication the level of intergroup anxiety should be managed between a minimum and a maximum threshold. A decrease in anxiety and uncertainty is also essential to intercultural adaptation. Different factors can increase the amount of anxiety in intergroup contexts, namely ethnocentrism, prejudice, and discrimination. These factors are related to individuals’ feeling of threat due to one or some of the following: intergroup conflict, unequal group status, in-group identification, knowledge of out-group, and intergroup contact. To settle intergroup conflicts individuals are advised to establish more high-quality intergroup contacts and to change the way they make distinctions among various groups. Quality intergroup contact can be reached through strategies such as establishing cross-cultural friendships and intergroup disclosure. One form of intergroup anxiety is intercultural communication apprehension, which is the apprehension individuals feel due to real or imagined intercultural communication. Intercultural communication apprehension is positively correlated with uncertainty and ethnocentrism, and negatively correlated with intercultural willingness to communicate.
The effects of uncertainty and anxiety are profiled in association with intercultural communication and the initiation and development of intercultural relationships. Uncertainty is cognitive and refers to what one knows about another and one’s level of predictability about another. Anxiety is the affective equivalent of uncertainty and refers to the level of discomfort associated with interacting with a stranger. Two major theories are associated with this process, including uncertainty reduction theory and anxiety/uncertainty management theory. Other communicative factors also affect uncertainty and anxiety reduction and management during intercultural communication.