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.
Federica Pieragostini, Bruno Gabriel Salvador Casara, and Caterina Suitner
Nonverbal communication is ever present in face-to-face interactions. In interpersonal interactions, individuals are simultaneously sending information with their appearance and nonverbal behavior and receiving comparable information from their partners. Typically, this sending and receiving of nonverbal communication happens automatically and outside of awareness. Consequently, nonverbal communication is a remarkably effective means of managing contact with others, signaling information about social goals, and providing feedback to partners. Although some patterns of nonverbal communication are biologically hardwired, culture, gender, and personality introduce important differences in the subtle give-and-take of nonverbal communication. Finally, because nonverbal communication typically occurs automatically and outside of awareness, people often have little insight into its critical role in interactions.
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.
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.
Maureen P. Keeley
End of life communication includes both verbal and nonverbal messages that transpire following a diagnosis of a terminal illness and death. The circumstances that occur at the end of life create opportunities for unique and important communication. Specifically, communication at the end of life is impacted by numerous and complicated factors: First, cultural views on death and dying often determine what is talked about, when it can be talked about, and who is included in the conversations. Second, the fears, desires, and needs of the terminally ill must be taken into account at the end of life as it is their personal end of life journey. Third, the nature of the relationships between the terminally ill and their family and friends have tremendous influence on the nature and topics of conversations that will be shared. Fourth, interactions with healthcare professionals (preferably with palliative care specialists) tend to be more task focused, emphasizing end of life decision making and comfort care for the terminally ill. Fifth, as people are tending to live longer with terminal illness and often doing so far from their family, professional caregivers and hospice volunteers are also engaging in meaningful and significant communication with the terminally ill. Communication at the end of life often determines whether or not the dying are allowed to die with dignity, with some control over their final wishes, and whether they are ultimately able to obtain some peaceful closure. Within close relationships communication at the end of life has the potential for authentic conversations that bring people closer, heal old wounds, and allow the terminally ill and close others to create some final memories and to say goodbye to one another. Communication at the end of life with health professionals has the potential for both the terminally ill and their family members to have greater satisfaction with end of life decisions and control of pain for the terminally ill, as well as better outcomes regarding grief and bereavement following the death for family members. For hospice volunteers and professional caregivers, communication at the end of life teaches the necessity and complexities of interactions at the end of life for the larger society.
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.
Timothy R. Levine
Much research has examined people’s ability to correctly distinguish between honest and deceptive communication. The ability to detect deception is useful, but many misconceptions about effective lie detection have been documented. Research on deception is especially informative because the findings of research often contradict common sense. For example, both folk wisdom and several social scientific theories hold that lies can be detected through the careful observation of nonverbal behaviors. Yet research shows that most of the nonverbal behaviors that are stereotypically linked with deception have less diagnostic value than presumed. The widely accepted conclusion from decades of research is that while people are statistically better than chance at detecting lies, people are poor lie detectors in an absolute sense, averaging just 54 percent accuracy. Poor accuracy findings hold across the biological sex of the sender and judge, adult age and occupation, various types of media, spontaneous and planned lies, and more and less potent motivations for lying. Research also finds that people are usually truth-biased—that is, people tend to believe other people more often than not. As a consequence of truth-bias, accuracy for honest communication is typically higher than accuracy for lies, a finding known as the veracity effect. Subsequent research has yielded promising findings suggesting various ways deception detection accuracy can be improved. Focusing on communication content, especially when understood in context, understanding the motives for deception, using evidence, and persuading senders to be honest all have been shown to improve lie detection accuracy in recent experiments.
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.