Robert M. McCann
In the last 20 years or so, the field of intergenerational communication as seen from an intergroup perspective has evolved to encompass a wide range of social, cultural, and relational contexts. Research into communication and age in organizations represents one particularly exciting and rapidly changing area of investigation within the intergenerational communication domain. The workplace, by its very nature, is rich with intergroup dynamics, with age in/out group distinctions being but one of many intergroup characterizations. Stereotypical age expectations—by management and coworkers alike—can serve as powerful harbingers to behavioral outcomes such as ageist communication, considerations of (early) retirement and reduced and/or lost training among older workers, and even reduced intentions among young individuals to take up careers involving older people. Ageist behaviors (including communication) are also at the core of many types of discriminatory practices toward older (and sometimes younger) workers. Age diversity strategies, which include intergenerational contact programs, cross-generational mentoring, age diverse teams, and the use of positive symbols of older age, are becoming more common in organizations.
Elisabetta Crocetti and Monica Rubini
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.
Robert M. McCann
Research into age and culture strongly suggests that people of different adult generations, regardless of culture, typically regard others and act in ways that display bias in favor of one’s own age group. While people across cultures share some basic patterns of aging perceptions, there is considerable variance in views on older people from one country to the next. Over the past two decades, the tenor of communication and aging research has shifted dramatically. Traditional research into aging across cultures painted a picture of Asia as a sort of communicative oasis for elders, who were revered and communicated to by the younger generations in a respectful and mutually pleasing manner. Compelling evidence now suggests the opposite, which is that (interregion variability in results notwithstanding) elder denigration may be more pronounced in Eastern than Western cultures. Accelerated population aging, rural-to-urban shifts in migration, new technologies, rapid industrialization, and the erosion of cultural traditions such as filial piety, may partially account for these results. Additionally, there are well-established links between communication and the mental health of older people. Specifically, communication accommodation in all of its forms (e.g., over accommodation, nonaccommodation, accommodation) holds great promise as a core predictor of a range of mental health outcomes for older people across cultures.
Young Yun Kim
The contextual theory of interethnic communication is an interdisciplinary theory that provides a comprehensive and interdisciplinary account of the associative and dissociative communication behaviors of individual communicators when interacting with ethnically dissimilar others. Integrating a wide range of salient issues, concepts, theories, and related research findings across disciplinary lines of inquiry across social sciences, the theory offers a multidimensional and multifaceted model explaining a full spectrum of interethnic decoding and encoding communication behaviors from highly dissociative to highly associative. Grounded in an open-systems perspective, the interethnic behavior and the context surrounding the behavior are conceived as co-constituting the basic interethnic communication system, operating simultaneously in a dynamic interplay. In varying degrees of salience and significance, all contextual forces are regarded in Kim’s theory to operate in any given interethnic communication event, potentially influencing, and being influenced by the nature of individual communication behaviors of association and dissociation. The theory identifies eight key contextual factors of the communicator (identity inclusivity/exclusivity and identity security/insecurity), the situation (ethnic proximity/distance, shared/separate goal structure, and personal network integration), and the environment (institutional equity/inequity, relative ingroup strength, and environmental stress). Eight theorems are proposed for empirical tests, linking each contextual factor with associative/dissociative behavior. Together, the eight theorems explain the dynamic and reciprocal behavior-context interface in interethnic communication. The theory also provides a conceptual blueprint for conducting case studies on specific interethnic communication events, and suggests pragmatic insights into ways to strengthen the social fabric of an ethnically diverse society from the ground up.
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.
Martha Augoustinos and Simon Goodman
The recent emergence of discursive psychological approaches has challenged the dominance of cognitive and structural models of language that theorize it as an abstract and coherent system of meanings. Epistemologically informed by social constructionism, discursive psychological approaches examine how language is actually used in everyday formal and informal talk or discourse. Discourse (both written text and talk) is treated as a social practice that is both central to understanding and constructing social reality and oriented to the practical concerns of everyday life. Discursive psychological approaches to intergroup communication have produced a large body of research examining everyday informal talk and institutional discourse on intergroup relations in liberal democratic societies. This work has focused primarily on the text and talk of majority group members and powerful elites about matters pertaining to race, immigration, ethnicity, and gender. How speakers attend to and account for group differences in discourse is perceived to be intimately related to the reproduction and legitimation of social inequalities in liberal democratic societies. This body of research has identified common and pervasive patterns of talk by majority group members that are seen as contributing to the continued marginalization and social exclusion of minorities. These discursive patterns include: positive self and negative other presentation, denials of prejudice, discursive deracialization, and using liberal arguments to justify and legitimate inequality.
Gang violence and its impact on society is a well-documented phenomenon. Until recently, gang research has been mostly conducted by criminologists and sociologists. Some scholars consider gangs to be special or different from other delinquent or peer groups, warranting special attention and approach to the research. Although this approach has led to substantial advancements in knowledge about gangs, scholars’ attention to emergent ideas from fields of study beyond gang research can contribute to a multifaceted understanding of gangs and group processes of gangs. Specifically, intergroup communication theories and research are well suited to analyze and predict communicative implications of gang membership on gang activities and potential gang members. Intergroup communication theories posit that it is not individuals’ characteristics that shape their communication with others but their salient social memberships, such as being a part of a gang or a certain socioeconomic group; in turn, the communication provides information about why/how they identify with different groups in society. While gangs have been rarely discussed in communication contexts—with an exception of the work by Conquergood who engaged in this topic over two decades ago—some key intergroup communication issues are alluded to in a number of existing definitions of gangs. For example, Pyrooz defines a gang as “a group that hangs out together, wears gang colors or clothes, has set clear boundaries of its territory or turf, and protects its members and turf against other rival gangs through fighting or threats” (2014, p. 355). In another example, Klein and Maxson define street gangs as “any durable, street-oriented groups whose involvement in illegal activity is part of its group identity” (2006, p. 4). These definitions indicate that gang membership is communicated by distinct markers—such as gang colors, clothing, or illegal activities—which help organize the gang’s system and making their identity distinctive from outgroups (other gangs and their surroundings). Also, gangs have clear boundaries for determining in/outgroup, and the shared group identity among ingroup members—rather than their individual identity—drives their communicative behaviors. Importantly, gangs are motivated to engage in risky behaviors to enhance their reputation and communicate dominance by fighting against other gangs or law enforcement (intergang conflicts). Examining these gang activities and processes as intergroup communication phenomena, as opposed to analyzing them in terms of individual and intragroup aspects, can complement gang research grounded in other disciplines and enhance understanding of why/how youths might decide to join gangs, obtain, and maintain gang membership.
Michela Menegatti and Monica Rubini
Language is one of the most powerful means through which sexism and gender discrimination are perpetrated and reproduced. The content of gender stereotypes, according to which women should display communal/warmth traits and men should display agentic/competence traits, is reflected in the lexical choices of everyday communication. As a consequence, language subtly reproduces the societal asymmetries of status and power in favor of men, which are attached to the corresponding social roles. Moreover, the hidden yet consensual norm according to which the prototypical human being is male is embedded in the structure of many languages. Grammatical and syntactical rules are built in a way that feminine terms usually derive from the corresponding masculine form. Similarly, masculine nouns and pronouns are often used with a generic function to refer to both men and women. However, such linguistic forms have the negative effects of making women disappear in mental representations. Although the use of gender-fair linguistic expressions can effectively prevent these negative consequences and promote gender equality, there are even more implicit forms of gender bias in language that are difficult to suppress. By choosing terms at different levels of abstraction, people can affect the attributions of the receiver in a way that is consistent with their stereotypical beliefs. Linguistic abstraction, thus, is a very subtle resource used to represent women in a less favorable way and thus to enact gender discrimination without meaning to discriminate or even be aware that this linguistic behavior has discriminatory results. In order to reduce gender bias, it is necessary to change people’s linguistic habits by making them aware of the beneficial effects of gender-fair expressions.
William A. Donohue
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.
Andrea Carnaghi and Mauro Bianchi
Intergroup relations shape group members’ linguistic choices, and group members’ language molds the quality of intergroup relations. Indeed, intergroup relations are often connoted by conflict, asymmetrical status, and prejudice, and the quality of intergroup relations dramatically affects the manner in which people speak about individual members and groups as a whole. Conversely, the language people rely on to address individual members and groups contributes to maintain—and in certain cases even enhances—intergroup conflict and discrimination.
Among the different forms of biased language and derogatory group labels are epithets, short tags that convey negative attitudes, and dehumanizing representations of the members or groups they address. Racial slurs, homophobic epithets, and sexist labels can be interpreted by addressing the perspective of the users, the audience, and the victim. Taking into account the user perspective, derogatory group labels express discriminatory and negative attitudes toward specific groups and communicate that the targeted individual is deviating from what is normatively expected. As far as the audience is concerned, the incidental overhearing of these labels affects the cognitive accessibility of semantic knowledge associated with the targeted group, influences the perception of the targeted individual, and strengthens intergroup biases. Finally, being the victim of these labels can negatively affect the well-being of the targeted individual by eliciting negative affect, self-directed prejudice, and worries of non-conformity. The discussion and analysis of the relation between intergroup dynamics and labeling provide the reader with crucial information to handle the current debate on politically correct speech.