A main developmental task for young people is to form a coherent and stable sense of personal and social identity. In fact, in adolescence (from ages 10 to 18), the multiple biological, cognitive, and social changes that occur stimulate young people to rethink about themselves, to reflect on the kind of person they want to become, and to find their own place in the society. Similarly, in emerging adulthood (from ages 19 to 29), young people have the possibility to explore a large array of alternatives in multiple life domains (e.g., education, work, relationships, worldviews) before enacting enduring adult commitments. Process-oriented identity models have been proposed to capture the dynamic process by which young people form and revise their identity over time, committing to relevant life domains, reflecting on their choices, and reconsidering them when they no longer fulfill personal aspirations and/or social expectations. This dynamic process is strongly intertwined with interpersonal and group communication processes. In fact, youth identity formation does not occur in a social vacuum; rather, young people form their identity by means of continuous interactions with significant others and relevant social groups. In particular, in youth, family, peers, and school represent main social contexts in which communication processes are likely to affect young people’s identities. Thus, communication processes are crucial for obtaining identity-relevant information that might foster individuals’ reflection on themselves and processes of social comparisons. Furthermore, through communication processes young people can manage their own reputation, striving to achieve and maintain a good reputation within relevant groups. Individuals’ efforts to enhance reputation are, indeed, important for gaining symbolic (e.g., satisfaction of esteem needs) and instrumental (e.g., the likelihood to be trusted by others and becoming influential) benefits that are important for youth psychosocial adjustment and well-being.
Elisabetta Crocetti and Monica Rubini
Lauren Keblusek and Howard Giles
Forms of dress, ranging from runway fashions and sports jerseys to traditional cultural apparel and religious garb, are central to contemporary social life and are intimately connected to issues of personal and social identity, communicating to others who we are or who we would like to be. Given this, dress style is a subject worthy of serious scholarly inquiry, particularly within the field of intergroup communication. Dress style—as well as other bodily accoutrements—has received some attention in disciplines across the social sciences, but has received less attention among those studying intergroup relations and communication. Prominent intergroup communication theories, such as social identity, uncertainty identity, and communication accommodation theories, teach us that clothing choices can reflect actual or desired group affiliations, demarcating group boundaries, shaping and reinforcing social identities, and influencing our perceptions of others. Dress style can also stem from a desire to reduce identity uncertainty, serving as a conduit for personal expression and self-discovery. Overall, intergroup dynamics play a prominent role in shaping dress style and body adornment practices across the globe.
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.
Rachyl Pines and Howard Giles
Dance is a visual, socially organized form of communication. There are countless forms and styles of dance, each with its own criteria of excellence, with varying degrees of technical training ranging from classical ballet to krumping. This could, at times, lend itself to intergroup antagonism with the various genres of dance as subgroups. However, all types of dancers have the potential to identify with one another as sharing in the superordinate identity, dancer. Dance may be consumed as an artistic performance, or one can engage it as a participant—dancing as a professional, as a form of recreation, or as a form of self-expression. The processes of producing, consuming, and participating in dance as a spectator, choreographer, or performer are all intergroup phenomena. For example, a spectator of a performance learns something about the culture that produced this dance. With this there is potential for intergroup contact and vicarious observation with dancers and the various audiences. This can be powerful for changing attitudes and conceptions of different dance groups. The attitude change may occur as people are exposed to a culture presented as art instead of exposure to information via factual accounts such as textbooks or museums. Also, a spectator or consumer’s perception of the performance is informed by group membership. For example, some religious groups discourage dance because they believe it is a sin or evil. These groups, if exposed to a dance performance, will experience it much differently than members of other groups that encourage dancing and actively seek its viewing. In sum, dance is a vehicle through which group membership and social identity can be expressed. As dancers perform they can, for instance, express gender and sexuality. As choreographers direct movements, they express their conceptions of gender through the dancers. And as spectators view the performance, they are shown something about gender expression. When it is used as a form of protest, as a cultural expression, or as a form of social innovation, dance can express social group membership.
Travis L. Dixon, Kristopher R. Weeks, and Marisa A. Smith
Racial stereotypes flood today’s mass media. Researchers investigate these stereotypes’ prevalence, from news to entertainment. Black and Latino stereotypes draw particular concern, especially because they misrepresent these racial groups. From both psychological and sociological perspectives, these misrepresentations can influence how people view their racial group as well as other groups. Furthermore, a racial group’s lack of representation can also reduce the group’s visibility to the general public. Such is the case for Native Americans and Asian Americans. Given mass media’s widespread distribution of black and Latino stereotypes, most research on mediated racial portrayals focuses on these two groups. For instance, while black actors and actresses appear often in prime-time televisions shows, black women appear more often in situational comedies than any other genre. Also, when compared to white actors and actresses, television casts blacks in villainous or despicable roles at a higher rate. In advertising, black women often display Eurocentric features, like straight hair. On the other hand, black men are cast as unemployed, athletic, or entertainers. In sports entertainment, journalists emphasize white athletes’ intelligence and black athletes’ athleticism. In music videos, black men appear threatening and sport dark skin tones. These music videos also sexualize black women and tend to emphasize those with light skin tones. News media overrepresent black criminality and exaggerate the notion that blacks belong to the undeserving poor class. Video games tend to portray black characters as either violent outlaws or athletic. While mass media misrepresent the black population, it tends to both misrepresent and underrepresent the Latino population. When represented in entertainment media, Latinos assume hypersexualized roles and low-occupation jobs. Both news and entertainment media overrepresent Latino criminality. News outlets also overly associate Latino immigration with crime and relate Latino immigration to economic threat. Video games rarely portray Latino characters. Creators may create stereotypic content or fail to fairly represent racial and ethnic groups for a few reasons. First, the ethnic blame discourse in the United States may influence creators’ conscious and unconscious decision-making processes. This discourse contends that the ethnic and racial minorities are responsible for their own problems. Second, since stereotypes appeal to and are easily processed by large general audiences, the misrepresentation of racial and ethnic groups facilitates revenue generation. This article largely discusses media representations of blacks and Latinos and explains the implications of such portrayals.