Families shape individuals throughout their lives, and family communication is the foundation of family life and functioning. It is through communication that families are defined and members learn how to organize meanings. When individuals come together to form family relationships, they create a system that is larger and more complex than the sum of its individual members. It is within this system that families communicatively navigate cohesion and adaptability; create family images, themes, stories, rituals, rules, and roles; manage power, intimacy, and boundaries; and participate in an interactive process of meaning-making, producing mental models of family life that endure over time and across generations.
V. Santiago Arias and Narissra Maria Punyanunt-Carter
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article.
Cultures vary in their values and their behaviors. For instance, the Thai culture has been shown to have different values from the American culture. Roogrensuke and Chansuthus discovered that Thai children are expected to give their parents a high amount of respect. Moreover, Thai children are not allowed to freely express their opinions or feelings to their parents, because the Thai family authority structure is so rigid. It is considered very improper for Thai children to criticize or condemn their parents. Even when the Thai children become young adults, these individuals will maintain respectful communication behaviors with their parents.
Past research concerning cross-cultural issues in communication studies has shown that there are several unique characteristics between the United States and other countries. Initial studies of cross-cultural issues tried to focus on the differences or similarities between the different cultures. Gudykunst suggests that cross-cultural research should be grounded in theory to obtain more detailed research.
With regard to family context, Tulananda and Roopnarine note that more attention has been given to the cultural differences among parent-child behaviors and interactions. They believe that looking at cultural parent-child interactions is important because it can help others understand children’s capacity to socialize and deal with life’s challenges. This article will look at specific cultural and communication behaviors in family relationships.
Douglas L. Kelley, Bianca M. Wolf, and Shelby E. Broberg
Research on forgiveness and its health-related effects has steadily increased since the late 20th century. Most of the forgiveness-health literature demonstrates that forgiveness indirectly influences health through a variety of psychosocial affective factors. Common distinctions in this research are reflected in studies focused on reduction of negative affect and, thus, negative health effects, and studies focused on preventative and health-promoting implications of forgiveness (e.g., increased positive affect). While a lack of clarity exists regarding health implications stemming from reductions in unforgiveness (as distinct from increases in forgiving responses), current research supports the notion that forgiveness, as opposed to unforgiveness, affects psychological, physical, and relational health in overridingly beneficial ways. More specifically, forgiveness, and/or the moderation of unforgiveness, is associated with the exhibition of positive affect (e.g., sympathy, empathy, and optimism), improved self-esteem, higher life satisfaction, and better mental health ratings. Physical health effects of forgiveness include enhanced bioregulation in response to transgression stressors, as well as better self-rated health status and the exhibition of positive health behaviors. Limitations in the current literature most commonly relate to disparate definitional, methodological, and interpretative issues typical of transdisciplinary forgiveness and health research. Current trends and future directions for forgiveness-health research include consideration of additional variables thought to be associated with forgiveness processes, including religiosity, empathy, and social support. Additionally, research that focuses on communicative and relational aspects of health and well-being is warranted. Suggestions for research opportunities in forgiveness-health research framed by a communicative lens are offered.
John C. Meyer and Steven J. Venette
Humor is ubiquitous in communication and is thus worthy of study as part of messages relating to risks and health. Humor’s widely acknowledged effects invite systematic explanation and application by communication scholars interested in health and risk communication. Humor’s influence upon health and risk messages results from the theories of humor origin (incongruity, superiority, and relief), elements of humor perception (unifying or comic perspectives as opposed to tragic or divisive perspectives), and humor functions in social interactions (identification, clarification, enforcement, and differentiation). Humor can be used in messages to mitigate high ego involvement, high levels of fear, and a low sense of efficacy in terms of ability to respond to risk or health messages. Humor can serve to enhance relationships, allowing for more creative discussion of risks and health improvement, yet also can serve to pointedly tease or express a memorable perspective to capture attention regarding a risk or health issue.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article.
Questions related to identity have been central to discussions about online communication since the dawn of the Internet. One of the positions advocated by early Internet pioneers and scholars of computer-mediated communication has been 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 to interlocutors. It was theorized that these differences would manifest as reduced social cues and provide 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 prompted 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. A key question related to this is how group identity and identification with the group relates to intergroup contact in online settings. How do people perceive the identities of others, as well as their own, when 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.
James M. Honeycutt and Robert M. McCann
Imagined interactions (IIs) are a process of social cognition and mental imagery in which individuals imagine and therefore indirectly experience themselves in anticipated and/or past communicative encounters with others. They have been studied in intergroup communication in terms of communication apprehension (CA), group conflict, teasing and bullying, cross-cultural differences, political partisanship, and sexual orientation. They have their theoretical foundation in the work of classic symbolic interactionists and phenomenologists, as well as cognitive script theory. IIs possess many of the same attributes as real conversations, in that they may be fragmentary, extended, rambling, repetitive, or coherent. They are a means of problem solving by allowing an individual to think through a problem.
There are 14 features of IIs, comprised of eight attributes (frequency, proactivity, retroactivity, valence, discrepancy, self-dominance, variety, and specificity) and six functions (compensation, rehearsal, understanding, conflict linkage, relational maintenance, and catharsis). Brief descriptions of the functions follow: They compensate for lack of real interaction, they maintain conflict as well as resolving it, they are used to rehearse messages for future interaction, they aid people in self-understanding through clarifying attitudes and beliefs, they provide emotional catharsis by relieving tension, and they help maintain relationships through intrusive thinking about a relational partner outside of their physical presence.
In terms of the attributes, frequency represents how often people experience them. Proactivity and retroactivity are concerned with the timing of the II in relation to actual conversations. Proactive IIs occur before an anticipated encounter, while retroactive IIs occur afterward. Retroactivity is very common in films and movies in which characters have flashbacks. Proactive and retroactive IIs can occur simultaneously, as individuals replay prior conversations in their minds while preparing for ensuing interactions. Discrepancy occurs when what was imagined is different from what happens in actual conversations. Since IIs can be used for message planning, most of the imaginary talk comes from the self, with less emphasis being placed on listening to what the interaction partner says. This reflects the self-dominance attribute. The variety characteristic of IIs reflects individual differences in the number of topics that are discussed in the IIs and whom they involve. IIs tend to occur with significant others such as relational partners, family, and friends. They do not occur with people whom we rarely see. Valence reflects how positive or negative the emotions are while having an II. Finally, IIs vary in their specificity, or how vague the imagined lines of dialogue are, as well as the setting where the imaginary encounter occurs.
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.
Lily A. Arasaratnam
The phrase “intercultural competence” typically describes one’s effective and appropriate engagement with cultural differences. Intercultural competence has been studied as residing within a person (i.e., encompassing cognitive, affective, and behavioral capabilities of a person) and as a product of a context (i.e., co-created by the people and contextual factors involved in a particular situation). Definitions of intercultural competence are as varied. There is, however, sufficient consensus amongst these variations to conclude that there is at least some collective understanding of what intercultural competence is. In “Conceptualizing Intercultural Competence,” Spitzberg and Chagnon define intercultural competence as, “the appropriate and effective management of interaction between people who, to some degree or another, represent different or divergent affective, cognitive, and behavioral orientations to the world” (p. 7). In the discipline of communication, intercultural communication competence (ICC) has been a subject of study for more than five decades. Over this time, many have identified a number of variables that contribute to ICC, theoretical models of ICC, and quantitative instruments to measure ICC. While research in the discipline of communication has made a significant contribution to our understanding of ICC, a well-rounded discussion of intercultural competence cannot ignore the contribution of other disciplines to this subject. Our present understanding of intercultural competence comes from a number of disciplines, such as communication, cross-cultural psychology, social psychology, linguistics, anthropology, and education, to name a few.
Following the devastation of World War II, policymakers and scholars worked to advance international partnerships and mutual understanding. In the 1940s and 1950s, international student exchange programs were launched to foster international good will; training programs for diplomats were created that focused on intercultural communication competence; and researchers turned their attention on how to optimize intergroup relations. Most prominently, Gordon Allport outlined principles of effective intergroup contact in the contact hypothesis. Scholarship based on the contact hypothesis later determined that the potential for friendship is not only a facilitating but also an essential factor for prejudice reduction and optimal intergroup contact. Focusing largely on the friendship experiences of international students studying abroad, research also identified numerous other benefits of intercultural-friendship formation, including stronger language skills, greater life satisfaction, lower levels of stress, and enhanced perceptions of the host country. Despite these benefits, the lack of friendship between sojourners and host nationals is a common finding in intercultural-friendship research and a concern for the many educational institutions worldwide that are attempting to internationalize, in part by attracting international students. Current research, therefore, often focuses on factors that influence intercultural-friendship formation and, increasingly, on measures for promoting intercultural friendship.
First among the factors affecting the development of intercultural friendships is cultural difference. Cultural similarity provides attributional confidence and reduces uncertainty; that is, interactants can more easily predict and explain behaviors in people who are similar to them. Highly dissimilar cultures often exhibit differences in communication patterns, value dimensions, and friendship styles that can impede relationship development, especially in the orientation and exploratory stages of social penetration, during which cultural complexities are most critical. Another prominent factor is the interactants’ motivation to form relationships across cultural lines. In one of the prime arenas for intercultural contact, international student exchange, for example, sojourners seeking cultural knowledge and personal growth generally have more interest in interaction and friendships with host nationals than students who are task oriented and focus on education for better career prospects after returning home. Similarly, host environment factors, such as host receptivity (ranging from welcoming attitudes to discrimination) influence the likelihood with which intercultural friendships are formed. Other factors affecting intercultural-friendship formation include communicative competence, intercultural sensitivity, and aspects of identity and personality (e.g., cultural versus personal identification, empathy, and open-mindedness). Among measures for promoting intercultural-friendship formation are infrastructures that facilitate proximity and frequency of contact, provide foreign language training, support experience abroad, and offer intercultural education and training to further intercultural competence and the appreciation of difference.
Malgorzata Lahti and Maarit Valo
The workplace is a highly meaningful context for intercultural communication where persons who come from different countries, identify with different ethnic groups or speak different languages get to collaborate and develop relationships with one another. Needless to say, interpersonal communication in the workplace has always been a primary area of interest for intercultural communication research.
Early scholarship focused on the preparation of U.S. military personnel, diplomats, business people, and missionaries for overseas assignments. However, the increasing pluralization of the social landscape has bolstered research endeavors. These days, the scope of intercultural workplace communication inquiry comprises everyday face-to-face and technology-mediated interactions in encounters, relationships, groups, and teams in a variety of working arrangements, and across a range of public and private sector organizations worldwide. The scholarship also draws on the organizational approaches of antidiscrimination and diversity management that emerged in the United States and have subsequently been exported to and reinterpreted in workplaces around the world.
Researchers have looked into such workplace communication processes and phenomena as social categorization, stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, conflict and its management, organizational satisfaction and identification, socialization, supportive communication, interpersonal relationship development and informal interaction, negotiation of shared workplace culture, knowledge sharing, decision-making, learning and innovation, or leadership and management. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the ways languages are used in interactions at work.