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Article

Successfully conveying information about the risk of potential threats to an individual’s physical and mental health is a serious challenge for healthcare practitioners. Adding to the challenge is the role of individual differences in people’s tendencies to want to learn (or in their choice to passively avoid) new information. These characteristic motives can be both curious and incurious in nature and interact with the perceived locus of the relevant health threat, which must be taken into account first. Some health threats are relatively “external,” and involve addressing the potential risk of an undesired event (e.g., developing illness, encountering relationship troubles). Research indicates that individuals who view external threats as “controllable” are more likely to respond positively to relevant information, but perception of control alone does not determine whether health-relevant information is likely to be sought or acted on. Besides perceived controllability, individual differences in incurious worry reduction motives (IWRM) play an important role as well. Two different kinds of IWRM have been identified: focus on distress (IWRM-FD) and focus on relief (IWRM-FR). Dispositional tendencies toward IWRM-FD are associated with greater willingness to seek out information when risk is perceived as low (i.e., information about the potential external threat is expected to make one feel better), but a tendency to passively avoid any information when risk is considered high (i.e., information is expected to intensify distress). In contrast, tendencies toward IWRM-FR reflect wanting more information about potential threats when risk is believed to be high, while passively avoiding news when perceived risk is low. In regard to coping with perceived risk, IWRM-FD scores predict avoidant coping, whereas IWRM-FR levels are associated with proactive coping and seeking others’ advice. Other risks are more “internal,” and involve threats to an individual’s certainty about his or her self-concept, purpose in life, or the wisdom of past behavior; in short, an “identity crisis.” Such threats underlie wondering things like “Who am I, really?” and are associated with less self-awareness, lower self-esteem, and greater overall distress. In response to internal threats, intrapersonal curiosity (InC) motivates individuals to engage in introspective self-exploration that may help them to clarify, to elaborate on, and to improve their understanding of their self-concept. Recent research has found that individual differences in InC are positively associated with IWRM, suggesting that dealing with identity crises involves the desire to better know oneself, as well as wishing to mitigate worries about experiencing self-doubt. Bearing the above in mind, research on individual differences in tendencies to avail oneself of different coping strategies indicates that proactive coping (e.g., positive reframing, seeking advice) tends to result in beneficial outcomes, such as personal growth and improved health, but some proactive strategies are “double-edged” and may lead to some negative outcomes as well. In particular, proactive strategies like acceptance of one’s limitations or discussing them with others when seeking social support were helpful, but they also had the potential to leave individuals feeling less sure of themselves. These findings suggest that practitioners who wish to more effectively communicate information about risk of potential health threats should consider whether the nature of the threat is internal or external, the role of individual differences in IWRM and InC, and how to help their patients to focus on the positive benefits of acceptance (i.e., identify solvable problems) and seeking social support (i.e., acquiring useful advice) over the negative aspects (i.e., admitting limitations).

Article

Xiaoquan Zhao

Self-affirmation theory posits that people are motivated to maintain an adequate sense of self-integrity. It further posits that the self-system is highly flexible such that threats to one domain of the self can be better endured if the global sense of self-integrity is protected and reinforced by self-resources in other, unrelated domains. Health and risk communication messages are often threatening to the self because they convey information that highlights inadequacies in one’s health attitudes and behaviors. This tends to lead to defensive response, particularly among high-risk groups to whom the messages are typically targeted and most relevant. However, self-affirmation theory suggests that such defensive reactions can be effectively reduced if people are provided with opportunities to reinforce their sense of self-integrity in unrelated domains. This hypothesis has generated substantial research in the past two decades. Empirical evidence so far has provided relatively consistent support for a positive effect of self-affirmation on message acceptance, intention, and behavior. These findings encourage careful consideration of the theoretical and practical implications of self-affirmation theory in the genesis and reduction of defensive response in health and risk communication. At the same time, important gaps and nuances in the literature should be noted, such as the boundary conditions of the effects of self-affirmation, the lack of clarity in the psychological mechanisms underlying the observed effects, and the fact that self-affirmation can be easily implemented in some health communication contexts, but not in others. Moreover, the research program may also benefit from greater attention to variables and questions of more direct interest to communication researchers, such as the role of varying message attributes and audience characteristics, the potential to integrate self-affirmation theory with health communication theories, and the spontaneous occurrence of positive self-affirmation in natural health communication settings.

Article

Sandra Petronio and Rachael Hernandez

Have you ever wondered why a complete stranger sitting next to you on a plane would tell you about a recent cancer diagnosis? Why your parents never disclosed that you were adopted, feeling shocked when you accidently find out as an adult? These and many other actions reflect decisions individuals make about managing their private information. Being aware of how individuals navigate decisions to disclose or protect their private information provides useful insights that aid in the development and sustainability of relationships with others. Given privacy plays an integral role in everyone’s life, knowing more about privacy management is critical. communication privacy management (CPM) theory was first introduced by Sandra Petronio in 2002. CPM is evidence-based and accordingly provides a dependable understanding of how decisions are made to disclose and protect private information. This theory uses plain language to understand privacy management in everyday life. CPM focuses on the relationship people have with each other in communicative contexts, such as face-to-face interactions, on social media, and in dyads or groups. CPM theory is based on a communicative-social behavioral perspective and not necessarily a legal point of view. CPM theory illustrates that privacy is not paradoxical but is sustainable through the process of a privacy management system used in everyday life. The theory of CPM has been employed in a number of contexts shedding light on antecedents, mechanisms, and outcomes of private information management. In addition, a number of researchers across multiple countries, such as the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, and the United States, have used CPM theory in their research investigations. Learning more about the system of private information management allows for a better understanding of how people navigate managing their private information when others are involved. Literature illustrates patterns of privacy management and demonstrates the challenges as well as the positive outcomes of the way individuals regulate their private information.

Article

The spiral of silence theory provides insight into the ways in which perceptions of public opinion can lead to changes in opinion expression behavior. Conceptualized in a political communication context, the central claim of the theory is that individuals’ fear of social isolation motivates them to continuously evaluate the climate of opinion through both experiences with the media and interpersonal communication. Upon assessment, individuals either find themselves in a situation where their opinion aligns with the majority or minority. Accordingly, those who find their opinion does not align with the dominant opinion are likely to conceal their opinions while those who find their opinion aligns with the majority are more likely to express them. Empirical research testing the spiral of silence theory has predominately focused on measurement of focal variables and methods of empirical testing. Advances have been made in regard to micro-level factors, such as creating universally applicable measures of psychological attributes. However, limited work has explored macro-level factors, such as appropriateness of issues, application to computer-mediated communication environments, and tools used to identify circumstances vulnerable to spiral of silence effects. Nonetheless, the practical value of the spiral of silence theory for health and risk communicators can be utilized by modifying campaign efforts to anticipate and counteract fluxes in public opinion.

Article

Jenny Crowley

Self-disclosure, or revealing information about the self to others, plays an integral role in interpersonal experiences and relationships. It has captivated the interest of scholars of interpersonal communication for decades, to the extent that some have positioned self-disclosure as the elixir of social life. Sharing personal information is the means by which relationships are built and maintained, because effective disclosures contribute to greater intimacy, trust, and closeness in a relationship. Self-disclosure also confers personal benefits, including reduced stress and improved physical and psychological health. Furthermore, disclosing private thoughts and feelings is often a necessary precondition for reaping the benefits of other types of communication, such as supportive communication. Despite the apparent advantages for personal and relational well-being, self-disclosure is not a panacea. Revealing intimate information can be risky, awkward, and incite judgment from close others. People make concerted efforts to avoid self-disclosure when information has the potential to cause harm to themselves, others, and relationships. Research on self-disclosure has primarily focused on dyadic interactions; however, online technologies enable people to share personal information with a large audience and are challenging taken-for-granted understandings about the role of self-disclosure in relating. As social networking sites become indispensable tools for maintaining a large and robust personal network, people are adapting their self-disclosure practices to the features and affordances of these technologies. Taken together, this body of research helps illuminate what is at stake when communicating interpersonally.

Article

Andrew C. Billings and Fei Qiao

Sports are often the source of our greatest—and clearest—group affiliations; yet, sports are often the most evident examples of outgroup derogation as well through the magnification of differences with rivals and opposing teams. The formation and fusion of sport-based groups explore the core internal issues of leadership and followership as well as issues such as hazing, fanship, and the psychology of difference. The concepts of Basking in Reflected Glory (BIRGing) and Cutting Off Reflected Failure (CORFing), as embodied within sporting circumstances, can be understood using social identity theory and self-categorization as a lens of examination. Moreover, there are many ways in which sport-based groups inform societal structures that are interpersonal, intergroup, and global in nature, along with the theoretical and applied implications of such structures.

Article

Steven H. Kelder, Deanna M. Hoelscher, and Ross Shegog

Social cognitive theory (SCT) is an action-oriented approach to understanding the personal cognitive, environmental, and behavioral influences on behaviors and to developing theory-based interventions to improve the health status and inequities of societies. It has broad applications across a diverse array of health-enhancing and health-compromising behaviors and has been used successfully in a variety of cultures, with many different intervention methods. Social cognitive theory provides empirically based concepts to explain health behavior and provides useful constructs and processes with which to design interventions. Intervention design using SCT typically follows a sequence of information gathering and project development steps. Literature about the magnitude of the heath problem, its’ risk factors, and the success of previous intervention attempts is carefully reviewed and summarized. The review is presented to the community and qualitative and quantitative assessments are undertaken with the recipients of the intervention to identify the most salient and powerful SCT constructs that are associated with the targeted behavior. Taken together, these preliminary data are then used in the application of SCT constructs for intervention design. Given the recognized differences in how SCT constructs manifest with different ethnic and cultural groups, the careful delineation, tailoring, measurement, and application of these constructs are critical for successful interventions.

Article

Susanne Fengler

In the past decade, academic and professional debates about media accountability have spread around the globe – but have done so in a fundamentally different framework. In many Western democracies, trust in media – along with trust in politics and trust in institutions – as eroded dramatically. Fundamental shifts regarding the patterns of media use and the structure of media and revenue markets have made media and journalism more exposed to criticism from various stakeholders, and more vulnerable to the strategic influence of national and international actors. While many “Western” media professionals have reacted to these challenges to its credibility by new initiatives to demonstrate accountability and transparency, policy makers in other countries even in the “Global North” have tightened their grip on independent media and gradually weakened the concept of self-control. At the same time, an ongoing democratization in many parts of the world, along with a de-regulation of media markets, has created a growing demand for self-regulation and media accountability in countries formerly characterized by rigid press control. Claude-Jean Bertrand defined the development and current structures of accountability in journalism as “any non-State means of making media responsible towards the public.” Key aims of media accountability are “to improve the services of the media to the public; restore the prestige of media in the eyes of the population; diversely protect freedom of speech and press; obtain, for the profession, the autonomy that it needs to play its part in the expansion of democracy and the betterment of the fate of mankind.” Journalists and news outlets have a wide array of responses to professional, public, and political criticisms via press councils, ombudsmen, media criticism, and digital forms of media accountability, while online and offline media accountability instruments have distinct traditions in different media systems and journalism cultures.

Article

Brian L. Massey and Cindy Elmore

The profession of journalism can hardly be explored today without recognizing the large number of journalists who work as freelancers rather than as organizational media direct employees. While this type of work is not new, the number of freelancers is growing as a share of all journalists as legacy media organizations lose audiences, trim workforces, and outsource labor in the context of an industrywide digital revolution. The increase in freelance journalists also comes amid a larger, postindustrial capitalist desire for flexibility and dexterity in staffing, with the resulting structural benefits for organizations. Yet there are all manner of so-called freelance journalists, and they are not easily located or defined. The most successful find opportunities and freedom in being their own boss and choosing their work. Many, however, find themselves thrust into pay-reducing competition, which engenders economic uncertainty and work volatility, the need to supplement journalism with other work, and unpaid time spent to market themselves and their work, or to get assignments (or even paid). Some freelancers find that it is not worthwhile to do time-consuming projects for which they will not receive pay commensurate with the time required. Freelancers are used in all manner of journalism work today, throughout the world where they have been studied, and involving every media platform. Some entire content models are based mostly or entirely on freelance labor. This has implications for journalism educators, who have traditionally trained students for organizational news media jobs; and for researchers, who have not considered the freelancer in their scholarship into journalism production, culture, or journalist practices, routines, and attitudes.

Article

The disruption information seeking and processing (DISP) model is a variation on the risk information seeking and processing (RISP) model. While both the DISP and the original RISP models seek to predict how individuals will search for and attend to information in response to a perceived hazard, DISP aims to broaden analysts’ view of the sorts of information individuals may seek in such situations. It does so by expanding the repertoire of social psychology theory on which the model is constructed to include ideas from the literatures on sensemaking and identity maintenance. A major argument of DISP is that on many occasions the information that people seek in response to a risk will not be directly related to the risk itself. For example, if you hear a news bulletin on an outbreak of food poisoning associated with ground beef, the next thing you look for may not be information on the risks of E. Coli, but a recipe for chicken. While the observation that people seek non-risk-related information in response to risks is a broad one, the DISP concerns itself with one particularly important aspect of this idea. Specifically, based on research in the sensemaking and identity maintenance traditions, the DISP model proposes that, for information seekers, the self and the various identities in which individuals are personally invested are often as much the objects in need of interpretation as the hazardous environment. The implication of this is that when faced with a risk, individuals are likely to pay attention not just to information on the risk itself (the sort of information prioritized by RISP), but on the identities impacted by the hazard—for example, how a person’s acceptance of or strategy for coping with the risk might affect her self-image as being a good parent, a conscientious employer, etc. The DISP also proposes that some hazard situations are likely to be more disruptive to individuals’ sense of self than others—namely instances where the individual has a high vested interest in a particular identity that is challenged by the hazard combined with a low sense of self-efficacy with respect to remediating the hazard. A typical example would be a parent who prides herself on keeping her kids safe, who finds out about an environmental risk to children in her neighborhood, but who cannot afford to move. According to the DISP model, in such a circumstance the individual would likely become more attuned to information about the countervailing positive aspects of the neighborhood, such as good schools or a low crime rate. These sorts of information, which do not pertain to the risk directly, but are nonetheless sought as a consequence of the risk, exemplify the manner in which DISP seeks to expand the focus of the original RISP model. In the parlance of DISP, the model adds a “self-relevant” information dimension to RISP’s original focus on “risk-relevant” information. Finally, the DISP model proposes the notion of “norm trumping,” suggesting that individuals experiencing disruption in the face of a hazard—who run afoul of the set of social norms associated with an identity in which they are highly invested—are likely to pay particular attention to self-relevant information that emphasizes alternative sets of norms that help to preserve or reconstitute a desired sense of self. This model has yet to be tested empirically.

Article

Narcissism is a personality trait characterized by perceptions of grandiosity, superiority, and the need for attention and admiration. There has been an increase in focus on examining the development of narcissism and how the trait influences a range of social and health behaviors. A key feature of narcissism is that it is characterized by high self-esteem with a simultaneously fragile ego that requires continual monitoring and manipulation. Therefore, much of the behaviors narcissists engage in are linked to the drive to maintain perceptions of superiority and grandiosity. In the area of health and well-being, narcissism has been positively correlated with psychological health, a relationship that may be accounted for by self-esteem. However, there has been less research on the relationship between narcissism and physical health and well-being. There is some evidence that narcissism is linked to a variety of physical appearance-oriented health behaviors (i.e., behaviors that could affect body weight or other aspects of physical appearance, including eating and exercise). Narcissism has also been positively linked to risk-taking behaviors, including use of substances, as well as risks that could significantly impact others, including sexual behaviors and risky driving. The relationship between narcissism and health is therefore complex, with some positive correlates (e.g., physical activity), but also various health risk behaviors. In considering how narcissism might interact with health messages, communicators have to keep in mind that narcissists seem to have some deficits in judgment and decision-making, such as overconfidence and a narrow focus on rewards associated with behaviors. Their behaviors tend to be driven by managing their own ego and by drawing attention and admiration from others to maintain perceptions of superiority and grandiosity. In turn, health communicators may need to rely on creative strategies that tap into these domains of narcissism in order to effectively modify health behaviors among narcissistic individuals. Further research on the influence of narcissism in healthcare seeking and related preventive behaviors would also help to provide a more detailed understanding for how the trait influences health decisions, information that would be useful for both health researchers and practitioners.

Article

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.

Article

The digital is now an integral part of everyday cultural practices globally. This ubiquity makes studying digital culture both more complex and divergent. Much of the literature on digital culture argues that it is increasingly informed by playful and ludified characteristics. In this phenomenon, there has been a rise of innovative and playful methods to explore identity politics and place-making in an age of datafication. At the core of the interdisciplinary debates underpinning the understanding of digital culture is the ways in which STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and HASS (Humanities, Arts and Social Science) approaches have played out in, and through, algorithms and datafication (e.g., the rise of small data [ethnography] to counteract big data). As digital culture becomes all-encompassing, data and its politics become central. To understand digital culture requires us to acknowledge that datafication and algorithmic cultures are now commonplace—that is, where data penetrate, invade, and analyze our daily lives, causing anxiety and seen as potentially inaccurate statistical captures. Alongside the use of big data, the quantified self (QS) movement is amplifying the need to think more about how our data stories are being told and who is doing the telling. Tensions and paradoxes ensure—power and powerless; tactic and strategic; identity and anonymity; statistics and practices; and big data and little data. The ubiquity of digital culture is explored through the lens of play and playful resistance. In the face of algorithms and datafication, the contestation around playing with data takes on important features. In sum, play becomes a series of methods or modes of critique for agency and autonomy. Playfully acting against data as a form of resistance is a key method used by artists, designers, and creative practitioners working in the digital realm, and they are not easily defined.

Article

Mengfei Guan and Jennifer L. Monahan

Positive emotional appeals can be an important, if often underutilized, component in health campaigns. Research reviewed from advertising, marketing, health communication, and social influence demonstrated how campaigns can promote risk-reduction behaviors by focusing on positive incentives, highlighting positive outcomes, and evoking positive feelings toward the health-related behavior. People who feel good during and after exposure to a health message tend to have favorable attitudes toward the message, which in turn establishes more open, rather than resistant, attitudes toward the issue or risk-reduction behavior promoted in the message. Along with influencing behavior via attitudes, positive affect can have a direct impact on behavior or intention. As suggested by broaden-and-build theory, positive affect broadens attention and thinking processes, increases openness to information, and helps form beliefs that the behavioral change promoted in the message is possible. Relatedly, positive affect tends to activate approach-oriented behaviors through the function of the behavioral activation system. Two primary strategies have demonstrated efficacy at promoting positive feelings: the use of gain-framed appeals and evoking the core relational theme of happiness. Gain-framed appeals emphasize the rewards obtained by following message recommendations and can boost behavioral adoption, particularly of proscriptive behaviors, by highlighting positive outcomes and goal congruency. Happiness occurs when people believe they are making progress toward realizing their goals, and messages can be created to induce positive feelings like happiness by focusing on self-efficacy, response efficacy, and perceived benefits. Positive message appeals are especially useful for counteracting the potential drawbacks of traditional negative appeals in that they can reduce message fatigue, gain attention, and attenuate psychological reactance. Challenges for future research include increasing efforts to systematically understand how and when to best utilize the power of positive messages in campaigns. Another related challenge is to examine how positive affect is aroused at a particular stage of exposure to health risk messages, and how emotions (both negative and positive), flow, evolve, and transit from one to another (e.g., fear to relief, anxiety to happiness) during and after message exposure.

Article

The Transtheoretical Model (TTM) is an integrative health behavior change theory that describes the process of how people change their behavior. The central organizing construct in the theory is stages of change, which are five distinct stages of readiness to change behavior, ranging from not ready to change (precontemplation), thinking about change (contemplation), preparing to change (preparation), changing (action), and maintaining the change (maintenance). Movement through the stages may be nonlinear, and cycling and recycling through the stages is viewed as a natural part of the change process. Other model constructs explain what drives individuals forward through the stages of change. Decisional balance involves a weighing of pros and cons of changing behavior, while self-efficacy involves situation-specific confidence that one can change. Increases in pros, deceases in cons, and increases in self-efficacy propel people forward through the stages of change. The processes of change are experiential and behavioral strategies that people use to change their behavior. In early stages of change, people use experiential strategies while they use behaviorally oriented strategies in later stages of change. The TTM holds significant implications for message design. Most notably, messages should be targeted and tailored to stages of change, and where possible, to other model variables as well. Studies indicate that the TTM has been successfully applied to health communication campaigns, and to a larger extent, to computer-tailored interventions to change health behavior. Meta-analyses indicate that scores of computer-tailored interventions have been efficacious, including many based upon the TTM and stages of change. New applications of the model include a focus on novel health behaviors, multiple behavior change, and advancing an understanding of message design in the context of the TTM in combination with other theoretical approaches.

Article

In understanding crowd psychology and its explanation of conflict and violence, there are different theoretical approaches that turn on different understandings of communication processes. There are three models of communication in the crowd worth reviewing: classic, normative, and dynamic. Classic models suggest that crowd members are influenced by an idea of emotion presented to them. Normative models suggest that influence is constrained by what is seen as consonant with group norms. And, finally, dynamic models examine how that which becomes normative in the group depends upon intergroup relations. The last of these approaches can explain the patterned, socially meaningful and yet changing nature of crowd action. Crowd action, itself, is a form of communication because it serves to shape the social understandings of participants as well as the social understandings of those beyond the crowd. It is argued that the nature and centrality of crowds contribute to the understanding and creating of social relations in society.

Article

Thomas E. Ford, Christopher J. Breeden, Emma C. O'Connor, and Noely C. Banos

Humor fundamentally trivializes its topic and invites people to think about it playfully and non-seriously. Intergroup humor, humor that disparages a social group or its representatives thus disguises expressions of prejudice in a cloak of fun and frivolity, affording it the appearance of social acceptability. As a result, disparagement humor represents a pervasive mechanism for communicating prejudice particularly since society has become increasingly sensitive to expressions of prejudice and other forms of offensive speech. Indeed, disparagement humor is perhaps more readily available to us now in the digital age than ever before. Because of its disguise of social acceptability, disparagement humor serves unique paradoxical functions in intergroup settings. It can function as a social “lubricant” and as a social “abrasive.” Disparagement humor directed at social out-groups functions as a social abrasive by threatening the social identity of members of the targeted group, by transmitting negative stereotypes and prejudice, by intensifying prejudice in the service of social dominance motives, and by fostering the release of prejudice against targeted out-groups. It simultaneously serves as a social lubricant for members of the in-group (the non-disparaged group) by enhancing personal and social identities. Finally, it can be co-opted by members of oppressed groups to serve social lubricant functions, including the subversion of prejudice, provided audiences understand and appreciate the subversive intent.

Article

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.

Article

Armin Scholl and Maja Malik

Observing, describing, and analyzing journalism as part of society requires theories on a macro level. Unlike normative theories, which criticize journalism with respect to its achievements and failures within society, systems theory operates with the concept of function in a non-normative sense. Based on the groundwork of Talcott Parsons’ theory of social systems, Niklas Luhmann developed systems theory further and radicalized it by strictly avoiding any kind of structural conservatism. His approach is built on the assumption that social systems operate autonomously on the basis of the functional differentiation to their environment. Macro-level systems, i.e., societal systems, fulfill unique functions for and within society. Functional autonomy and singularity make a modern society highly efficient but force each system to rely on the functional performances of all other societal systems. Hence, societal systems are structurally coupled and interdependent. Epistemologically, systems do not exist as ontological units but are strictly observer-related, be the observer the system itself or an external observer, such as the scientific community is. In journalism research, Luhmann’s systems theory has been applied to journalism as a societal system. Several competing approaches with different perspectives on the system observed (journalism, the mass media, or the public sphere) have been developed with respect to identifying the basic characteristics on which the system operates. Despite their differences they have this in common: journalism is not considered the sum of individual journalists and their (individual) way of working, instead, the systems-theoretical perspective is holistic. However, compared to theories of professionalism, which is also a holistic concept, systems theory neither identifies journalism with the profession of journalism, nor commits it to professional journalism. Instead, the structure of journalism is flexible, i.e., functionally equivalent, as long as its function is fulfilled. This function can be specified: journalism provides society periodically with current, independent, factual, and relevant information. Empirically, systems theory helps defining the population of journalists by deducing it from its function. Unlike mere empirical approaches, which arbitrarily draw samples from an unknown population, it is possible to clearly draw distinctions between journalism and other forms of public communication, such as public relations, advertising, propaganda, or lay communication. Still, it is challenging to operationalize such an abstract theory, as it is not specially made for hypothesis-driven research.