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.
Intergroup anxiety is a form of restlessness and negative feeling caused by communicating with someone with a different social and cultural identity. Just like any other form of anxiety, intergroup anxiety has negative consequences, such as disability in social interactions, weak cognitive performance, and even life consequences. Intergroup anxiety is the result of fear of being disapproved, embarrassed, and rejected across different racial, ethnic, religious, and social groups’ interactions. Theoretically, intergroup anxiety is influenced by the previous experiences one has had with the members of other groups, one’s knowledge of other groups, and the situation in which one interacts with other groups. Intergroup anxiety has behavioral, cognitive, and affective consequences. There are different theories of communication that explain the nature and function of intergroup anxiety. Uncertainty reduction theory, for example, defines anxiety as a result of uncertainty and asserts that to maintain communication, parties should decrease their uncertainty and consequently their anxiety. Anxiety/uncertainty management theory focuses on anxiety and argues that to have effective communication the level of intergroup anxiety should be managed between a minimum and a maximum threshold. A decrease in anxiety and uncertainty is also essential to intercultural adaptation. Different factors can increase the amount of anxiety in intergroup contexts, namely ethnocentrism, prejudice, and discrimination. These factors are related to individuals’ feeling of threat due to one or some of the following: intergroup conflict, unequal group status, in-group identification, knowledge of out-group, and intergroup contact. To settle intergroup conflicts individuals are advised to establish more high-quality intergroup contacts and to change the way they make distinctions among various groups. Quality intergroup contact can be reached through strategies such as establishing cross-cultural friendships and intergroup disclosure. One form of intergroup anxiety is intercultural communication apprehension, which is the apprehension individuals feel due to real or imagined intercultural communication. Intercultural communication apprehension is positively correlated with uncertainty and ethnocentrism, and negatively correlated with intercultural willingness to communicate.
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.
Yan Bing Zhang and Makiko Imamura
Group memberships provide a system of orientation for self-definition and self-reference in the process of relating to and managing social distance with others, and the use of language and communication serve central roles in the processes. In the nearly four decades since its inception as speech accommodation theory, communication accommodation theory has been used in multidisciplinary, multilingual, and multicultural contexts for understanding when, how, and why we, as speakers, accommodate to each other’s languages and styles of communication. In CAT’s theoretical domain, accommodation refers to the ability, willingness, and strategies to adjust, modify, or regulate individuals’ language use and communication behaviors. Specifically, approximation strategies such as convergence, divergence, maintenance, and complementarity are conceptualized in the earlier developmental stages of CAT, with other strategies such as interpretability, discourse management, and interpersonal control added to the list at later stages. With its strong intergroup features, CAT is a robust theory that offers explicit motivational analysis to account for intergroup communication behaviors and intergroup relations. Blossomed initially in a multilingual and multicultural context in Quebec, Canada in the 1970s, CAT connects well with other existing theories on cultural adaptation, intergroup contact, and intergroup relations. Yet, CAT distinguishes itself from other theories as it attends to the interactive communication acts and processes and relates them to other sociocultural constructs, while interpreting and predicting the social, relational, and identity outcomes.
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.
Death is inevitable: We witness the death of others and eventually face our own. However, people in general view death as taboo and tend to avoid discussing their own or others’ mortality. A cultural shift has been taking place in the developed world so that dying has become an increasingly medicalized process, where death is viewed as something to be stopped or delayed instead of accepted as part of a natural life cycle. As family members are less responsible for the dying process, communication about death and dying becomes a sensitive topic and is often ignored or avoided. Lack of this meaningful communication can lead to stereotypes about the dying person, conflict among family members, and fear of death. Talking about death and dying, if done correctly, can have a positive impact on health-care delivery and the bereavement process.
Incorporating knowledge of intergroup communication with a lifespan approach can deepen communication effectiveness about death and dying. People’s group identities can play important roles in the conversation about death and dying. As children and adolescents, people can encounter the death of older family members (e.g., grandparents) and the communication here can be intergenerational. Due to age differences, younger adults may feel uncomfortable to react to older adults’ painful disclosure of death and the bereavement process. During adulthood, people deal with the death uncertainty for themselves and their loved ones. The communication in this period can be intergenerational and inter-occupational, especially when there are third parties involved (e.g., medical providers or legal authorities). Death and dying communication tend to happen mostly, albeit not always, during the later lifespan, as time of death approaches, among older adults, family members, and medical providers. These conversations include advanced care planning (i.e., arrangements and plans about the dying process and after death), medical decision making, palliative care, and final talks. Increasing the awareness of death and dying can help to normalize the dying process.
Norah E. Dunbar
Deception is the act of knowingly leading another person or persons to hold a false belief. Deception researchers have examined deception primarily as an interpersonal action between one person and another in an interpersonal context. The focus has been on the detectability of deception through verbal or nonverbal cues and the relational consequences of discovered deception in myriad situations. Rarely has deception been explored at the intergroup level. Intergroup deception consists of one group (or a representative of a group) lying to another during a situation in which social categories are highly salient. The primary difference between intergroup deception and interpersonal deception is to be found in the identity for each actor. Interpersonal deception suggests a shared underlying identity, while intergroup deception implies divergent identities. Politicians who lie to their constituents, a union representative lying to the management during a labor negotiation, or two ambassadors lying to each other while attempting to resolve a conflict between their two nations each would be considered intergroup lies if actors see themselves as primarily representing their larger social group rather than themselves as individuals. While studies of intergroup deceptions are relatively rare, there has been important work done in at least three different contexts: in communication between members of different cultures, communication between political or military factions, and communication between corporate entities where each actor represents not only their personal interests, but also those of their organization. In these cases, the communicators each represent a potentially hostile “other.” Earning trust in a situation of out-group engagement is a difficult endeavor, and the study of intergroup deception explores how trust is earned in such situations and how deceptive communication is judged when the parties represent opposing forces.
Kevin A. Whitehead
In the wake of what has been called the “discursive turn” or “linguistic turn” in the social sciences, research at the intersection of language and communication and race and racism shifted from being largely dominated by quantitative and experimental methods to include qualitative and particularly discursive approaches. While the term “discursive” potentially encompasses a wide range of modes of discourse analysis, discursive approaches share a focus on language use as social action, and as a constitutive feature of actions, events, and situations, rather than as merely a passive means of describing or transmitting information about them. When applied to the study of race and racism, such approaches have examined ways in which language functions to construct, maintain, and legitimate as well as subvert or resist racial and/or racist ideologies and social structures.
Research in these areas has made use of a range of empirical materials, including “elite” texts and talk (media texts, parliamentary debates, academic texts, etc.), individual interviews, focus groups and group discussions, “naturally occurring” talk-in-interaction from conversational and institutional settings, and text-based online interactions. Although these different data types should not be seen as strictly mutually exclusive, each of them serves to foreground particular features of racial or racist discourse(s), thus facilitating or constraining particular sorts of discourse analytic findings. Thus, different data sources respectively tend to foreground ideological features of racial discourse(s) and their intersection with power and domination, including examination of “new” racisms and the production and management of accusations and denials of racism; discursive processes involved in the construction and uses of racial subjectivities and identities; interactional processes through which prejudice and racism are constructed and contested; and the everyday interactional reproduction of systems of racial categories, independently of whether the talk in which they occur can or should be considered “racist.”
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.