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Article

Music is a powerful form of communication. Many of the functions of music are shared across cultural groups (e.g., its uses in ritual celebration, group coordination, coalition signaling, dance, and the like), and certain musical phenomena are universal (e.g., recognition of octaves, distinguishing music from noise). These universals mean that music has the capacity to bring groups together, offering a communication code that is simultaneously expressive and emotionally intense, while also lacking in traditional semantic meaning (and thus reducing the opportunities for miscommunication between groups). However, music often serves to divide groups, with forms of music signaling or constructing group memberships that are distinct from and in opposition to other groups. Music can even be used to incite intergroup division and hatred, particularly when music and lyrics are combined. As we explore the ways in which communication unites and divides humans, we must look at codes beyond traditional verbal and nonverbal communication. Music is one such code meriting more focused attention from intergroup communication scholars.

Article

Jake Harwood

Contact between members of different groups has long been advocated as a productive means for reducing intergroup prejudice. The empirical evidence supports this notion, with hundreds of studies indicating that people (especially people from dominant groups) gain more positive attitudes towards other groups (typically non-dominant groups) by communicating with members of those groups. Generalization from the individual group member to the group as a whole is stronger when the target’s group membership is salient during the encounter, albeit that generalization might be positive or negative. Recent years have seen expanded definitions of intergroup contact, moving from direct face-to-face contact to broader realms such as imagining interaction with the outgroup, contacting the outgroup through interactive (e.g., computer) or non-interactive (e.g., broadcast) media, and becoming aware of or observing contact involving other ingroup and outgroup members. Several suggestions for the most effective content of contact have been supplied, but the most definitive recommendation is simply that the contact not be negative: contact involving extensive conflict and negative emotions do not reduce prejudice. The effects of contact can occur through a wide variety of mediators, but the most commonly studied have been anxiety and empathy: contact reduces anxiety and increases empathy, and those emotional responses translate into more positive intergroup attitudes. Counter-intuitively, some evidence suggests that contact is most effective for people with higher levels of pre-existing prejudice. Contact can have some ironic negative effects on progress towards societal equity. In particular, considerable evidence suggests that harmonious intergroup contact can reduce perceptions of inequality and suppress the motivation for social change for dominant and subordinate groups. For subordinate groups specifically, a positive intergroup experience with a dominant group member can reduce the drive to actively challenge the status quo.

Article

Elise Holland, Michelle Stratemeyer, and Nick Haslam

Intergroup metaphors represent human groups as nonhuman entities, such as animals, objects, plants, or forces of nature. These metaphors are abundant, diverse in meanings, and frequently but not invariably derogatory. Intergroup metaphors may be explicitly represented in language or implicitly represented as nonconscious mental associations. Research and theory on dehumanization offer a useful perspective on these metaphors, and show that likening outgroups to animals is a particularly common phenomenon. Frequently, groups are metaphorically compared to disgusting or degrading animals during times of conflict, but people also tend to view members of outgroups as subtly more animal-like or primitive than their own group even in the absence of conflict. Depending on the use of intergroup metaphors in the contexts of race, gender, social class, immigration, mental illness, and terrorism, intergroup metaphors can have damaging consequences for intergroup relations. Metaphors that represent some people as subhuman entities can diminish empathy and compassion for their suffering. Metaphors that represent certain groups as bestial or diabolical can enable violence, including support for harsh treatment by the state. Some metaphors not only promote violence and discrimination but also help people to legitimize violent behavior and injustice after the fact. Metaphors therefore offer an intriguing insight into the nature of intergroup relations, and how these relations are colored not only by positive or negative attitudes but also by dehumanizing perceptions.

Article

Sucharita Belavadi

Uncertainty regarding the self—about who we are, our place in the world, and our future is typically an unsettling and aversive state. It is a state that we are motivated to reduce in order to gain predictability over events in the world around us. One of the most effective ways of managing uncertainty regarding the self is by seeking group memberships and belonging to groups. Thus, uncertainty reduction can be construed as a drive, such that we join and identify with groups in order to manage uncertainty about and related to the self; this is the core tenet of uncertainty-identity theory, which discusses uncertainty reduction as one of the motives for seeking group memberships. Previous work in uncertainty-identity theory has shown that when uncertain about the self, individuals seek highly entitative groups to identify with. Such groups are characterized by clear, distinct boundaries—a clear sense of what the group stands for while spelling out who we are versus who we are not. Highly entitative groups have interdependent members and a clear sense of identity that is distinct from those of other groups. According to uncertainty-identity theory, identifying with such groups can reduce self-uncertainty, as individuals can define the self in terms of a clear, distinct prototype and manage uncertainty regarding who they are. Research in uncertainty-identity theory shows that when uncertain, group members perceptually polarize their group away from the outgroup in order to enhance the perceived entitativity and distinctiveness of their group prototype relative to other groups. Thus, the group moves to an extreme and polarized position that is far removed from that of an outgroup with the need to fashion a distinctive identity. The preference for a clearly defined and highly entitative social identity that helps delineate who we are versus who we are not when group members are self-uncertain should increase group members’ vulnerability to ingroup rhetoric that emphasizes the distinctiveness of group boundaries and an us versus them thinking. This is a dangerous trend, especially in the context of intergroup conflict, as influential group members, such as leaders, might seek to mobilize group members by demonizing outgroup members while attributing suffering and unpredictability experienced by ingroup members to the actions of outgroup members. Thus, gaining an understanding of the processes through which the uncertainty of group members is exploited to mobilize support for extreme ideologies might be one way to explain extremism and radical behavior by groups.

Article

Janet B. Ruscher

Prejudiced attitudes and stereotypic beliefs about outgroups can be reflected in language and everyday conversations. Explicit attitudes and beliefs may be expressed through use of group labels, dehumanizing metaphors, or prejudiced humor. More implicit attitudes and beliefs may be leaked through variations in sentence structure and subtle word choices. Empirical work shows that such prejudiced attitudes and stereotypic beliefs can spread within ingroup communities through one-on-one conversation as well as more broadly through vehicles such as news, the entertainment industry, and social media. Individuals also convey their prejudiced beliefs when communicating to outgroup members as message recipients. Outgroups who are members of historically disadvantaged groups, in particular, are targets of controlling or patronizing speech, biased feedback, and nonverbal behavior that leaks bias.

Article

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.

Article

Ma.Àngels Viladot

Intergroup communication in Spain focuses mainly on the interactions between the Spanish state and the coexisting national minorities. Spain is a state divided into autonomous communities, three of which—Catalonia, Galicia, and Basque Country—are denominated historic communities, having their own languages that coexist co-officially with Castilian, the official language of Spain. Because national identities are not fixed, but mutable in the face of political, economic, and social circumstances, the dynamics established between Spain and these historic communities are a recurring theme of study and analysis. However, research conducted from the perspective of intergroup communication is very scarce. The mutability of national identities is explicitly stated in an alarming way in the current highly conflictive intergroup communication between the Spanish state and Catalonia. This autonomous community has progressed from a cultural claim in the 19th century to a pact-based ethnopolitical vindication from the 1980s until the beginning of the 21st century. However, the Spanish state, from its stance as a unique and essentialist nation, is facing a Catalonia that claims recognition as a nation and a strong self-government. These demands have led to a strong polarization between the parties, to such an extent that the conflictive escalation has led Catalonia to consider secession. Intergroup communication between Spain and the historic communities is strongly influenced by the historic circumstances of upheavals and defeats suffered because of the application of the power of the Spanish majority, willing to renounce to its richness of cultural and linguistic variability in exchange for the unity of a single Spain, and because of the ethnolinguistic vitalities of the historic minorities. Each historic community has a different ethnolinguistic vitality, as well as different feelings of injustice and legitimacy about its situation. Galicia has suffered a strong ethnolinguistic assimilation into the Spanish group of Castilian speakers, and in the Basque Country, a highly significant part of the population now feels as Basque as Spanish, while the demands for separatism are decreasing. On the other hand, Catalan-speaking communities—some ten million people—even with variations among them, have a high relative ethnolinguistic vitality and, driven by feelings of injustice, they act with strategies of competence and communicative divergence, to which the Spanish state is responding, with both strategies of silence and a strong normative enforcement. These differences in the balance of power between Spain and the historic communities have been one of the main factors that have motivated different levels in intergroup communication. These conflicts will require imaginative solutions that allow the national group to achieve their aspirations and to overcome the Catalonia-Spain confrontation, a struggle that began more than 300 years ago. Some solutions are being proposed today, for example, to achieve a European federalism in which Europe is structured in layers, governed by principles of subsidiarity.

Article

Understanding intergroup communication in the context of genocide and mass killing begins with an exploration of how this kind of communication can devolve into such heinous human tragedies. How does communication set the stage that enables groups to pursue this path? The literature suggests that genocide is preceded by a period of intense communication that seeks to exacerbate racial divides while also providing social sanctions for killing as a solution to this intergroup strengthening activity. As individuals use language in their intergroup exchanges that seeks to build their own identity through the derogation of an outgroup, they become trapped in a conflict paradox that can then lead to violence or genocide. Strategies for detecting language associated with forming an identity trap and then dealing with it are also discussed.

Article

Religion encompasses many forms of communication: between groups, within groups, and with God (or other deities). Such communication can be especially powerful when group members highly identify with their religious group and the beliefs therein. Equally, it can be divisive, as evidenced by religion-based intergroup conflict and intolerance (which often overlaps along ethnic or political lines). However, not all religious communication is verbal or explicit. Religious individuals also commonly transmit their beliefs, values, and identities through symbols, physical spaces, and music. Likewise, communication with God is often pursued with silent prayer, meditation, or ritual, which also serve to reinforce one’s spirituality alongside religious group boundaries. Taken together, these varying forms of communication have implications not only for religious intergroup relations (e.g., intergroup contact or conflict), but also for intragroup relations (e.g., the strengthening of social ties) and individual health outcomes (e.g., effective communication with health care providers and coping practices). Given the importance of religious identity for many individuals, the benefits for individual well-being and intragroup relations, and yet the intergroup strife that religious group divisions can incite, the ways in which we communicate our religious group identities deserve closer attention.

Article

Katharine H. Greenaway, Cindy Gallois, and S. Alexander Haslam

Communication and social psychology have much in common. Both fields seek to answer basic questions about human behavior: how do we persuade and influence others? How do we develop and maintain social connections? When and why do relationships break down? But despite overlap in the questions they ask, social psychology and communication have remained remarkably separate disciplines, with vastly different research philosophies, methods, and audiences. It is important to interrogate the theoretical threads connecting communication and social psychology in the arena of intergroup communication, in order to bring the lenses of both fields to this arena. In particular, the construct of identity is woven through communication and social psychology research, and connects both fields to intergroup relations and communication. Paradoxically, issues of identity—how it is created, shaped, and signaled by the social contexts we inhabit—are frequently overlooked in both fields; in the future, there should and will be much more emphasis on the impact of identity in intergroup communication.

Article

Stephen M. Croucher

Despite rises in immigration and attempts to manage immigration, anti-immigrant threat and prejudice remains a major concern at the individual and societal levels, and often surfaces as a key political, economic, and social issue. Research shows anti-immigrant prejudice is widepread. One of the explanatory factors for widespread anti-immigrant attitudes is threat perception. Attitudes towards immigrants and immigration have become less positive amidst the outbreak of the current refugee crises in Europe. This can lead to many anti-immigration demonstrations and to anti-immigration sentiment. Many nonimmigrants worry about the economic burden immigrants pose to society and the potential danger immigrants represent to the dominant culture and society. Overall, research shows that believing people from other cultures are a threat to one’s own culture and survival leads to prejudice and discrimination. Stephan and Stephan’s integrated threat theory (ITT) offers an explanation to these feelings of threat. ITT proposes that prejudice and negative attitudes towards immigrants and out-groups is explained by four types of threats: realistic threat, symbolic threat, negative stereotype, and intergroup anxiety. Realistic threats are to the physical well-being and the economic and political power of the in-group; symbolic threats arise due to cultural differences in values, morals, and worldview of the out-group; negative stereotypes arise from negative stereotypes the in-group has about the out-group; and intergroup anxiety refers to anxiety the in-group experiences in the process of interaction with members of the out-group, especially when both groups have had a history of antagonism.

Article

An intergroup perspective in the legal context highlights the influence of group membership on the interaction between authorities and citizens. Social identity influences communication both in the field (e.g., police–civilian) and in the courtroom (e.g., juror deliberation). The research in the law enforcement context addresses trust in police officers, the communication accommodation between police and civilians, sociodemographic stereotypes impacting police–civilian encounters, the role of police media portrayals, and its influence on intergroup exchanges between police and civilians. Juries are inextricably influenced by group membership cues (e.g., race and gender), and differentiate those in the ingroup over the outgroup. The impact of stereotypes and intergroup bias is evident in the literature on jury decisions and the severity of punitive sentencing. These and other factors make the intergroup nature of the legal context significant, and they determine the interconnection between the parties involved. Specifically, the social identity approach brings focus to the biases, attributions, and overall evaluations of the perceived outgroup. The research indicates that diversity is necessary to alleviate the intergroup mindset, thereby encouraging a more interindividual viewpoint of those outgroup members.

Article

Silvia Moscatelli and Monica Rubini

In everyday life, we are faced with disparate examples of intergroup bias, ranging from a mild tendency to ingroup favoritism to harsh episodes of discrimination, aggression, and even conflicts between groups. Where do they stem from? The origins of intergroup bias can be traced back to two main motivations, that is, attachment to one’s own group (“ingroup love”) and negative feelings toward outgroups (“outgroup hate”). Although lay people, but also some researchers, see the two motivations as intertwined, growing evidence from different fields (e.g., social psychology, evolutionary psychology, and neuroscience) has indicated that intergroup bias is more often driven by needs of ingroup protection and affiliation, which do not imply outgroup hostility or competitive attitudes. Outgroup hate is instead likely to arise in intergroup contexts characterized by a high degree of enmity. It is important that members of the groups involved, but also external observers, recognize ingroup love as the primary motor of intergroup conflict: the attribution of hate to the outgroup’s behavior renders negotiation and conflict resolution harder while at the same time justifying severe aggression or even annihilation of the opposing outgroup. In the domain of intergroup communication, an intriguing way through which group members express their ingroup love and outgroup hate is represented by variations of linguistic abstraction and valence in depicting behaviors performed by ingroup or outgroup members. This unintended use of language reveals that group members are more prone to express ingroup love also at a linguistic level. However, specific changes in intergroup relations along variables such as group size, group status, or relative deprivation can give rise to linguistic patterns of outgroup hate.

Article

Located in the Asia Pacific region, Asia and Australasia have established a long and close relationship over the past centuries. Asian immigrants play a key role in the development and maintenance of this relationship between the two continents. As Australia not only occupies 86% of the Australasia region but also has a long history of receiving Asian immigrants, dating back to the 18th century, research on intergroup communication between Asian immigrants and host nationals tends to be concentrated in Australia. Under the early White Australia Policy, restrictions on Asian immigrants were imposed to protect the White Australia. This reflected the values and attitudes at the time when many Australians considered Asia as a threat and defined themselves as separate from it. Since the removal of this policy in 1973, particularly in the past four decades, there has been a substantial boom of Asian immigration to Australia. They transformed Australia’s economy, society, culture, and more importantly, Australians’ attitudes toward Asia and Asians. Asian immigrants are therefore central to the study of intergroup communication in Australasia.

Article

Group memberships provide a system of orientation for self-definition and self-reference in the process of relating to and managing social distance with others, and the use of language and communication serve central roles in the processes. In the nearly four decades since its inception as speech accommodation theory, communication accommodation theory has been used in multidisciplinary, multilingual, and multicultural contexts for understanding when, how, and why we, as speakers, accommodate to each other’s languages and styles of communication. In CAT’s theoretical domain, accommodation refers to the ability, willingness, and strategies to adjust, modify, or regulate individuals’ language use and communication behaviors. Specifically, approximation strategies such as convergence, divergence, maintenance, and complementarity are conceptualized in the earlier developmental stages of CAT, with other strategies such as interpretability, discourse management, and interpersonal control added to the list at later stages. With its strong intergroup features, CAT is a robust theory that offers explicit motivational analysis to account for intergroup communication behaviors and intergroup relations. Blossomed initially in a multilingual and multicultural context in Quebec, Canada in the 1970s, CAT connects well with other existing theories on cultural adaptation, intergroup contact, and intergroup relations. Yet, CAT distinguishes itself from other theories as it attends to the interactive communication acts and processes and relates them to other sociocultural constructs, while interpreting and predicting the social, relational, and identity outcomes.

Article

Jessica Gasiorek

People can adjust their communication in a variety of ways for different contexts, audiences, and purposes. Although these adjustments often improve or facilitate interaction—that is, make it smoother, better, or easier—sometimes they do not. “Nonaccommodation” is a concept drawn from communication accommodation theory (CAT) and refers to adjustments in communication behavior associated with disaffiliation, expressing dissimilarity and/or obscuring information. Nonaccommodation can be defined and described in terms of either speakers’ or listeners’ experiences; it may also be intentional or unintentional on the part of a speaker. Researchers have studied nonaccommodation in terms of both its objective behavioral manifestations (e.g., linguistic divergence) and the subjective perceptions that relate to those behavioral manifestations (e.g., psychological divergence; over- and underaccommodation). Responding to nonaccommodation effectively can be challenging, and what constitutes the “best” or “most appropriate” response often depends on contextual factors and interactants’ goals. In line with the functions of accommodation described in CAT, nonaccommodation can influence communication effectiveness as well as the nature of interpersonal and intergroup relations. Generally, nonaccommodation hinders shared understanding and increases perceptions of social distance between individuals and their social groups. Often it is also associated with less positive evaluations of the people and groups involved, as well as lower levels of relational solidarity. Nonaccommodation occurs frequently across a wide variety of societally significant contexts, including intergenerational, medical/healthcare, police–civilian, family, and educational interactions. As such, it represents an important area for both theoretical and applied research.

Article

Marko Siitonen

Questions related to identity have been central to discussions on online communication since the dawn of the Internet. One of the positions advocated by early Internet pioneers and scholars on computer-mediated communication was that online communication would differ from face-to-face communication in the way traditional markers of identity (such as gender, age, etc.) would be visible for interlocutors. It was theorized that these differences would manifest both as reduced social cues as well as greater control in the way we present ourselves to others. This position was linked to ideas about fluid identities and identity play inherent to post-modern thinking. Lately, the technological and societal developments related to online communication have promoted questions related to, for example, authenticity and traceability of identity. In addition to the individual level, scholars have been interested in issues of social identity formation and identification in the context of online groups and communities. It has been shown, for example, how the apparent anonymity in initial interactions can lead to heightened identification/de-individuation on the group level. Another key question related to this one is the way group identity and identification with the group relates to intergroup contact in online settings. How do people perceive others’ identity, as well as their own, in such contact situations? To what extent is intergroup contact still intergroup contact, if the parties involved do not perceive it as such? As online communication continues to offer a key platform for contact between various types of social groups, questions of identity and identification remain at the forefront of scholarship into human communication behavior in technology-mediated settings.

Article

Media users exercise control over their information and entertainment environments. Selective exposure to media allows individual to choose channels and messages that satisfy their interests and motivations. A variety of selective exposure studies have assessed selective exposure to messages about ingroup versus outgroup members. Relevant theoretical perspectives include information seeking, confirmation bias, informational utility, self and affect management, reinforcing spirals, boundary expansion, exemplification, and social comparison. Each of these theories of selective exposure identifies an attitudinal or self-conceptual basis for media use yet also allows for the role of social identity or beliefs about intergroup members and interactions. In addition, the distinction between selective exposure and selective avoidance is critical for understanding intergroup media contact, as is the distinction between positive and negative portrayals of relevant social groups. Applicable findings from survey and experimental studies illustrate that age identity, sex and gender identity, and race and ethnicity all produce patterns of selective exposure in which ingroups are generally favored. Information about outgroups is more likely to be selected if it suits the situational or dispositional needs of the individual. Partisan selective exposure is also examined from an intergroup perspective, as is selective exposure to information about aspirational future selves and self-expansion. Depictions of persons that exemplify social groups or allow for social comparison are also discussed, yet little direct evidence exists about exposure to outgroup members in these processes. Finally, interpersonal new media are considered with regard to intergroup contact. Immersive media such as virtual reality provide interactive contact with outgroups, and social identity plays an important role in the distribution of user-generated content, the cultivation of online social networks, and the ongoing convergence between mass and social media. Selective exposure researchers are increasingly considering intergroup contact as an important type of media content relevant to their theories, and intergroup contact researchers are increasingly accounting for the selectivity factor in media processing and effects. Integrating key findings and building a more programmatic approach to this topic will enhance the understanding of individuals’ self-selected exposure to media about (and produced by) outgroups. Indeed, for intergroup media contact to be successful in producing less stereotyping, more positive attitudes, and more intergroup harmony, media users must first choose to come into contact with messages about outgroup members, specifically messages that can convey and produce beneficial effects for intergroup relations.

Article

Social media are increasingly ubiquitous communicative channels, used to create and maintain groups. Bearing several commonalities with computer-mediated communication more broadly, social media afford users opportunities to present both their social and personal identities, often concurrently, which can respectively activate intergroup and interpersonal communicative processes. Moreover, social media provide groups and their members some unique properties and opportunities for communication, which can both build and blur boundaries among groups. Thus, as individuals increasingly interact via services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, QQ, and other social media channels, it is important to consider the recursive relationships and effects among intergroup communication and the use of these tools: What about social media may affect the nature of group communication, and what about groups may affect how members use social media channels? Exploring the processes and effects of activated social identities, this chapter explores the potential for social media to both silo and span disparate groups, and for group communication within social media to spill over into other channels, including offline.

Article

Nick Joyce

Mediated contact involves exposing audiences to people from other social groups (ethnic, religious, political, etc.) through media. It is an extension of intergroup contact theory, one of the most widely studied and successful prejudice reduction strategies in the social sciences. Mediated contact has effects on explicit and implicit attitudes, as well as physiological responses towards other groups. These effects generally serve to improve intergroup relations in terms of affective, cognitive, and normative outcomes. These outcomes can be understood in terms of a number of psychological processes, which here are synthesized into three thematic headers: Liking, identifying, and learning. Each of these themes taps into existing theoretical areas including parasocial relationships, social identification, and social cognition. Mediated contact has been shown to be effective across a wide variety of study methodologies and contexts, for a wide variety of participants, targeting a wide variety of social out-groups. Although the effects of mediated contact seem to be secondary to face-to-face experience, the fact that many people possess information about groups primarily through media make it an important area of study. While the current media landscape is often less positive and diverse than the ideals of mediated contact, research suggests that positive mediated contact can still have an impact on audiences in both the laboratory and the real world.