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date: 25 September 2017

Norm Talk and Intergroup Communication

Summary and Keywords

Norms are regularized patterns of attitudes and behavior that characterize a group of individuals, separate the group from other groups of individuals, and prescribe and describe attitudes and behaviors for group members. Relying on social identity theory and self-categorization theory, the role played by group norms within groups and the processes by which such norms are promulgated within groups are discussed. Norm talk or the communication of normative information within groups is explored, as a major proportion of communication within groups is dedicated to clarifying ingroup identities and group attributes such as attitudes and behaviors that characterize the group. Group members can glean normative information by attending to norm talk for instance, by listening to the content of fellow group members’ communications, from their behavior, and from influential or prototypical sources within the group.

According to self-categorization theory, once individuals categorize themselves as members of a salient group or category, they represent normative information cognitively as ingroup prototypes. Prototypes are a fuzzy set of group attributes (such as attitudes and behaviors that characterize the group) and simultaneously minimize differences within groups while maximizing differences between groups. Thus, clear group prototypes help create distinct identities that are clearly demarcated from other groups. Group members should be especially attentive to information that flows from prototypical sources within groups—such as leaders and ingroup media sources—while efforts should be made to differentiate from marginal or deviant members who deviate from the prototype and reduce clarity of ingroup prototypes. The processes through which attending to information communicated by different sources within groups—both prototypical and non-prototypical—help group members seek normative information and clarification of ingroup prototypes are discussed.

Keywords: prototypes, ingroup norms, social identity, group attributes, intragroup communication, intergroup communication

Ingroup Norms and Norm Talk

When we perceive a collective of individuals as a group or a category, we typically look for a set of common attributes that characterize the group of individuals as members of the group or category. Within groups, a set of common attributes typically characterizes the group, helping regularize behavior and attitudes of members and giving them a clear sense of shared reality while differentiating them from other groups that are characterized by different sets of attributes. The set of common attributes that shape a shared reality for members within groups and help regularize group members’ behaviors and attitudes can be understood as ingroup norms. How do groups come to learn about these attributes that shape and regularize their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors within the group? In this chapter, the important role communication within groups plays in promulgating normative ingroup information is discussed. Norm talk is used as a general catchall term that captures all communication and talk within groups that serves to convey information to group members about group norms. Norm talk can be understood as “communication about and reflective of group norms” (Hogg & Giles, 2012, p. 375) that occurs within groups.

Group norms serve to regularize attitudes and behaviors within groups and describe and prescribe attitudes, feelings, and behaviors for a group of individuals (Turner, 1991; Hogg & Reid, 2006). Norms are shared by members of a category and thus shape a normative reality of the world for individuals who share group membership. Group norms not only prescribe attitudes and behavior within groups, they also distinguish ingroups from outgroups by clearly prescribing where one’s group stands and how one’s group views the world—as distinct and separate from other groups that are characterized by their own distinct norms. Thus, group norms not only play an important role in guiding group members’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, they also help groups maintain distinctiveness from other groups that are characterized by different norms (Hogg & Giles, 2012; Hogg & Reid, 2006; Hogg & Tindale, 2005).

A major proportion of communication and talk that occurs within groups is about ingroup norms—for instance, about how we view the world as a group, how we behave as group members, how we fashion the self as group members, and who is normative of the ingroup and who is not. Talking about the norms that characterize a group of individuals helps the group understand the attitudes and behaviors that characterize them and bind them together within a shared social category. There are several channels through which such communication can occur, but some examples of such talk are communication by leaders that helps clarify social identities, media-based communication that spells out information about social identities and how the ingroup thinks, behaves, and feels in intergroup contexts relative to other groups, and communication directed toward non-normative or marginal ingroup members that helps distinguish non-normative positions and behavior from normative positions and behavior (Frings & Abrams, 2010; Harwood, 1999; Hogg & Reid, 2006; Hogg & Tindale, 2005). Such talk about norms within groups not only helps promulgate normative information, but also helps clarify social identities and helps us place ourselves and our groups in the social world relative to other groups.

While the literature on norms, the nature of norms, and how norms influence, describe, and prescribe behavior is extensive, in this chapter, I take a very specific look at norms that characterize a group of individuals and prescribe and describe behavior for individuals who identify with the group. With this aim, I rely on social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979; also see Abrams & Hogg, 2010; Hogg & Abrams, 1988; Hogg, 2006) and self-categorization theory (Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987) and related theories that have been developed within the broad framework of these two theories to explore how communicative processes within and between groups can serve to clarify and promulgate group normative information. Communication of normative information is not limited only to dyadic interactions within groups, but also includes the promulgation and communication of information through group symbols, behavior of group members, and group-wide communication of normative information (for instance, normative information communicated by the media, leaders, and influential ingroup sources). Thus, such norm talk is applicable not only to communication within small groups, such as task groups and intimacy groups, but also to larger social categories. The processes through which norms come to frame who we are versus who they are will be explored. Further, the factors that contribute to some ingroup members wielding greater normative influence within groups shall also be discussed. To understand these processes, in the first section, I begin by discussing how norms have been defined from a social identity and self-categorization perspective and the processes underlying normative influence within groups.

Social Categorization and Conceptualization of Group Norms

While norms help regularize behavior within groups, what are the underlying processes through which normative influence occurs? In this section, I discuss the processes by which categorization of self as a member of a group and identification with such a group bring about perceptions of a shared reality within a group that helps regularize behavior and attitudes. In order to explore processes underlying normative influence within groups, I discuss the basic processes of self-categorization and identification as a group member as outlined in social identity theory and self-categorization theory in detail. According to social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), we derive aspects of our self-concept from the groups that we belong to (i.e., we derive self-definition from our group memberships). Moreover, within social categories, the ways in which group members define the self is shared psychologically among members, such that aspects of the self-concept are derived from the defining attributes of the social category. One of the reasons we join groups according to social identity theory is because they provide us with a sense of who we are relative to who they are. Groups strive to maintain positive intergroup distinctiveness (i.e., belonging to groups gives individuals a distinct sense of identity by helping group members differentiate their social identities from those of other groups); groups also satisfy a need for positive esteem as one’s own group is viewed as better and more correct in the worldview shared by the group relative to other groups (Abrams & Hogg, 1988).

Self-categorization theory (Turner et al., 1987) elaborates on the processes through which we rely on social identities to shape our sense of self. Self-categorization theory outlines the cognitive processes through which group members represent groups, such that the representation of the group that is shared by group members comes to characterize the norms of the group (Hogg & Reid, 2006). According to self-categorization theory, we make sense of a wide range of social stimuli by categorizing individuals into groups. We attend to information that cues category memberships, which then allow us to determine enough to either categorize others as fellow ingroup members or outgroup members. Examples of such cues are language spoken, accent, appearance, gender, race, age, etc. Considering that we have several different social identities, derived from different groups of which we are members, when a specific social identity is salient, we cease to view ourselves as distinct individuals; rather, we view ourselves through the lens of our salient group memberships and fashion a self in line with group attributes. Further, when we categorize others into social categories, we cease to view them as distinct individuals as well, and we view them through the lens of their group memberships. This process of viewing others and the self through the lens of group membership has been termed depersonalization. Thus, we not only stereotype others but we also stereotype ourselves in line with salient group attributes.

Depersonalization and viewing the self through the lens of one’s group membership also means that we represent group attributes cognitively as prototypes—a fuzzy set that characterizes groups and emphasizes similarities within groups and differences between groups (e.g., for reviews, see Abrams & Hogg, 1990; Hogg, 2006). Thus, when a specific social identity is salient in our minds, we depersonalize our self and ingroup members in line with the prototype that characterizes that group. Prototypes do not represent the average position within the group; rather, they represent the group ideal. Moreover, prototypes work according to the metacontrast principle, such that they simultaneously capture similarities within groups, while maximizing differences between groups. Thus, by cognitively representing group attributes in terms of prototypes, group members can seek a clear definition of the self—one that is shared by members within groups, while clearly distinguishing one’s identity from that of other groups. We depersonalize self and others and view them and ourselves as reflections of the group prototype; while the self and fellow group members are viewed as reflections of the ingroup prototype, outgroup members are viewed as reflections of the outgroup prototype.

Group norms in this sense are like prototypes (e.g., see Hogg & Reid, 2006), as group members represent group prototypes cognitively, which in turn shapes a shared view of social reality within groups. The prototype of the group when shared by group members can be understood as the norms that characterize the group (Hogg & Reid, 2006). This sharing of a consensual view of the world within groups drives normative influence as thoughts, feelings, and behavior within the group are regularized in line with the normative standards of the ingroup. In other words, normative influence is viewed as stemming from within individuals as opposed to an out-there process; as self-definition is derived from group memberships, the values and attributes of the group become internal guides for the self as a group member; this is especially true for individuals who identify strongly with the group and seek the group for self-definition (Turner, 1991). The processes underlying normative influence within groups as stemming from internal cognitive change rather than mere external compliance are outlined by referent informational influence theory (Abrams & Hogg, 1990; Hogg & Turner, 1987; Turner, 1982; Turner & Oakes, 1989). Ingroup norms do not influence our behavior and attitudes through external pressure; rather, we represent cognitively the attributes of groups we identify with and infer normative attitudes and behavior from ingroup prototypes that create a shared pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting. Thus, according to this approach, once individuals categorize themselves as members of a group and identify with that group, normative influence occurs through the regularization of attitudes, feelings, and behavior. Individuals do not comply with group norms because they are expected to follow the group’s prescriptions; instead, they act in accordance with norms by representing normative standards cognitively.

While group norms serve as guides that shape ingroup members’ attitudes and behavior, how do individuals in groups come to learn about normative information? In the next section, I discuss how group members learn of normative standards that characterize the group and how normative information is promulgated within groups.

Norm Talk and Clarification of Ingroup Norms

One of the foremost ways in which people learn of norms within groups is through the observation of fellow group members’ behaviors—the content of their communications, the way they behave, and how they treat ingroup and outgroup members. A first step to relying on group members as normative guides, however, is to categorize self and others as ingroup members. In other words, we can only use others as appropriate guides for social behavior when a specific group identity and prototype are salient in our minds, and we categorize others as prototypically similar and thus as ingroup members. Thus, we rely on prototypically similar others for normative information in a particular social context while seeking to be distinct from the outgroup.

Reicher (1984, 2001) in his analysis of crowd behavior demonstrated how group members come to learn of normative behavior in contexts where group norms change quickly and spontaneously, such as in crowd situations. Reicher maintains that crowds do not behave in haphazard or chaotic ways, as it might appear to outsiders; instead, behavior within crowds is motivated by a clear ideology and is normative for individuals within the crowd who now identify as members of that specific group, as distinct from another group typically at the receiving end of the crowd’s actions. Thus, crowd behavior in this account is viewed as being driven by the basic process of social categorization of self and prototypically similar others as members of the crowd and antagonistic others as members of the outgroup. Self-categorization and identification with the group that now comprises the crowd sets limits for behavior that is considered normative and non-normative of the ingroup. Behavior that is consistent with the norms and attributes of the group and within the boundaries of identification with that specific group are carried out and displayed by crowd members. Reicher states that these social limits to behavior within groups are important in trying to understand how individuals behave in crowds. These limits of who we are versus who they are also help establish the normative limits of crowd behavior, and behavior that fits with ingroup attributes spreads and becomes ingroup normative.

In this analysis, Reicher (1984, 2001) mentions that the information communicated by prototypical members and the behavior they demonstrate serve as important guides for what is normative in the given context, and it is through the process of norm inference from what typical members say and do that the normative standards characterizing the ingroup are understood. Moreover, not all behaviors by ingroup members will be considered normative in the context of crowd behavior according to Reicher; rather, those behaviors that are viewed as a fit with the attributes of the group and the group’s position will be considered normative and are more likely to spread through the group as normative behavior. Moreover, this analysis also shows that leaders emerge within such groups as respected members within the crowd, and they play an important role in promulgating norms within the group. Thus, as group members infer normative ingroup standards within the social limits of group boundaries, clear boundaries regarding us versus them are established. This helps create a distinct identity within the group contributing to intragroup cohesion and mobilization against the outgroup.

Other research has shown that normative ways of being within groups can emerge as group members interact through discussion, negotiation, and contestation of group identity (e.g., see Reicher, 1996). Through this process, behavioral consistencies emerge and become regularized, and groups converge toward prototypical attributes and normative behaviors. In a study conducted within the context of computer-mediated communication (Postmes, Spears, & Lea, 2000), interaction and communication within groups among individuals who had clustered into common categories through the course of an online statistics class were examined over a period of time. Interaction within these categories resulted in communication consistencies emerging; ways of communicating that were typical of the group became amplified over time; and the groups converged toward normative ways of communicating. Thus, over time, as communication norms within the group emerged, members conformed to such norms to a greater extent, and prototypical ways of communicating and behaving within groups emerged, thereby regularizing patterns of behavior. Moreover, results of this study indicated that intragroup communication converged toward prototypicality of content (information regarding group attributes—for instance, we are the humorous group) rather than prototypicality of form (use of specific symbols like question marks). This indicates, according to the authors, that such regularization in communication and behavioral patterns within groups serves the important function of clarifying social identities and clearly indicating the nature of one’s group. Thus, normative convergence within groups is not simply a random process such that groups regularize toward behavioral patterns without a specific purpose; rather, it appears that normative convergence serves the important goal of clarifying group attributes and social identities.

Within-group norm talk can also serve to clarify ingroup norms and the prototype, and thereby clarify group attributes and what the group stands for. Such talk aimed at clarification of ingroup normative standards should be especially likely when one’s ingroup members behave in ways that violate ingroup prescriptive norms. Categorization of others as ingroup members and depersonalizing them in line with the ingroup prototype creates an expectation that they will act in ingroup normative ways; however, not all members within groups occupy similar positions relative to the prototype. While some members hold more prototypical positions within groups, others are less prototypical and behave in ways that violate ingroup prescriptive norms.

Such marginal members deviate from the normatively prescribed position by holding attitudes and behaving in ways that go against the norms prescribed within the group; such marginal members raise questions about the subjective validity of ingroup norms (Frings & Abrams, 2010). Given that marginal members by virtue of being ingroup members are expected to think, feel, and behave in normatively consistent ways, when they deviate from ingroup prescriptive norms, it brings into question the correctness of ingroup views and normative ways of thinking about the world. A key motive for seeking group memberships, as already mentioned, is a need for positive esteem, and group members in their quest for a positive social identity wish to be better and more correct in their views relative to other groups. Thus, when one’s own group members behave in ways that call the subjective validity of ingroup norms into question, normative group members should question the norm-violating behavior of fellow marginal ingroup members.

In such conditions, Frings and Abrams (2010) have found that non-marginal members of the group direct difference-oriented communication (DOC) toward marginal ingroup members. DOC is communication that is aimed at differentiating the ingroup normative position from the anti-normative stance held by marginal members, with the aim of establishing the subjective validity of ingroup norms. Such communication helps group members clarify and validate ingroup attributes and normative ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving within the group, while helping to indicate to the self and other normative ingroup members the extent of non-normativeness of the marginal member’s position. Frings and Abrams have found that such DOC can take the form of persuading marginal members to take a more normative stance, questioning marginal members regarding their non-normative stances, and even coercing and insulting marginal members with the threat of exclusion from the ingroup. Thus, as the discussion indicates, there are several ways in which group members come to learn about norms, clarify ingroup norms, and converge toward a normative position. In the next section, I discuss the role that more prototypical members such as leaders play in shaping and promulgating ingroup normative information.

Ingroup Prototypes and the Role of Leaders

As mentioned, one of the primary ways in which group members learn about normative information within groups is by attending to norm talk or communication from group members who occupy influential and prototypical positions within the group or, in other words, embody the ingroup prototype. Within groups, individuals occupy different positions relative to the prototype—while some individuals are viewed as closer to the prototypical position because they embody prototypical group attributes, others are viewed as less prototypical because they deviate from the prototypical or normative position within groups. While attending to information from prototypical members helps group members learn about normative information, communication aimed at differentiating prototypical from non-prototypical members serves to clarify the prototype and group norms.

When we talk of prototypical ingroup members, leaders within groups come to mind (e.g., Fielding & Hogg, 1997; Reicher & Hopkins, 2003). According to the social identity theory of leadership (Hogg, 2001; Hogg & van Knippenberg, 2003), leaders wield influence in groups as they embody the ingroup prototype—that is, they are typically the most ideal members of the group, they represent the group attributes, and hold positions that maximize differences between groups and minimize differences within the group. Thus, leaders who embody prototypical attributes and are considered prototypical of the group should be viewed as effective leaders, especially by followers who identify strongly with the group and for whom the group is essential to self-definition (Hains, Hogg, & Duck, 1997). Prototypical leaders thus help to embody the attributes of the group, maintain the distinctiveness of identities, and serve as guides to what the group stands for.

Given the extent of influence leaders can wield based on the position they occupy in groups, leaders within groups have been termed entrepreneurs of identity (Reicher & Hopkins, 2003) or prototypicality managers (Hogg & van Knippenberg, 2003). In this role, they help fashion distinct identities by clearly specifying who we are relative to an outgroup, while giving the group a clear identity to define the self with. Thus, when group membership is salient, such prototypical members should become especially attractive and stand out against the background of the group. In this sense, prototypical members in salient groups are given leeway to shape, communicate, and promulgate information regarding the group prototype. As we have discussed, by shaping a prototype that is shared by the group members, leaders can wield normative influence, as the shared prototype shapes consensual reality within the group and regularizes attitudes and behaviors of group members.

Knowing that their influence in a group stems from the position they occupy within the group, leaders, at times, might choose to emphasize their prototypicality in order to wield greater normative influence over followers. One way in which leaders do this is through rhetoric and talk that emphasize intergroup boundaries and intergroup distinctiveness, while pillorying ingroup deviants who move closer to outgroup positions (see e.g., Hogg, 2005; Reicher & Hopkins, 2003). Leaders might choose to reshape the ingroup prototype by defining its inclusivity, such that subgroups deemed as not fitting within this prototype are considered exclusive of the ingroup prototype or as less prototypical and marginal (Reicher, Hopkins, Levine, & Rath, 2005). This strategy should help leaders frame the ingroup prototype with rhetoric that emphasizes their own prototypicality within the group, helping them gain greater ability to influence followers within the group. Further, with the aim of fashioning a clear and distinct social identity for the group, a narrative of hatred and demonization toward a carefully chosen outgroup might be chosen by leaders (Haller & Hogg, 2014; Hogg, 2005; Reicher et al., 2005). While this helps to fashion a clear and distinct ingroup prototype embodied by the leader, it also mobilizes followers and increases support for the leader’s position, as well as their normative influence within the group.

Leaders who are prototypical and thus embody group attributes are also given more leeway in changing group norms, to be innovative, and move the group in new directions (Fielding & Hogg, 1997). Leaders compared to less prototypical group members are given greater leeway to bring about normative changes and engineer social change. Research by Seyranian (2014) indicates that communication tactics used by leaders can play an important role in bringing about change, as leaders frame a new or alternative social identity for the group. According to social identity framing theory (Seyranian, 2013; Seyranian & Bligh, 2008), leaders fashion social change in three steps. First, through social identity unfreezing, they highlight problems, issues, and uncertainties facing the group while also emphasizing the negative consequences that are likely to occur if changes are not made. This should make ingroup membership salient in followers’ minds, as they now pay attention to the problems that plague the ingroup as a whole. In order to be trusted as engineers of change, leaders then rely on inclusive ingroup language (e.g., we) while emphasizing ingroup similarity in order to shape a vision of a collective that strives together toward a new reality. At this stage, leaders also highlight their own prototypicality within the group; they might do so by emphasizing their similarity to group members while clearly delineating group boundaries and identifying dissenters and marginal voices within the group (e.g., see Hogg, 2005) that go against their vision of change. Once existing ways have been challenged by the leader, in the next two stages of social identity moving and social identity freezing, the leader fashions new norms, attributes, and ways of thinking and behaving for the group that challenge old ways of being. This helps leaders reframe the content of the prototype and bring about normative change within the group.

Thus, while leaders can play an important role in shaping social identity and ingroup prototypes, norms, and group attributes, in the next section, I examine norm and prototype shifts that occur within groups as they aim to maintain intergroup distinctiveness from an outgroup. Thus, other than the norm shifts that are initiated by leaders, ingroup norms can also shift and polarize to positions that are far removed from those of the outgroup in order to maintain distinctiveness.

Norms and Intergroup Boundaries

As discussed, ingroup prototypes and norms do not stay static; rather, they can be understood as being fluid and changing in response to shifts in the intergroup context. Depending on the intergroup context that is salient, the prototype of the group shifts away from the outgroup with the goal of maintaining intergroup distinctiveness from the outgroup (e.g., Abrams & Hogg, 1990). Considering that the prototype of the group operates according to the metacontrast principle, depending on the intergroup context, the prototypical position changes in order to maximize the differences between groups and minimize differences within groups. Thus, who we are shifts on the basis of the intergroup context and who they are, and in order to gain ingroup normative information, attention needs to be paid to both intragroup and intergroup communication. Who we are is always defined in the context of who we are not.

Thus, depending on the intergroup context that is salient at a given time, the normative ingroup position, represented by the prototype, polarizes away from the position of the outgroup in order to maintain intergroup distinctiveness and the clarity of intergroup boundaries. David and Turner (1999) discuss the effect that categorization of others as either ingroup members or outgroup members can have on intergroup boundaries and the ingroup prototype. Using different types of feminists as an example, they state that when moderate feminists are confronted with separatist feminists, moderate feminists are likely to view separatist feminists as members of the outgroup, as they are seen as adopting a different approach from their own. However, when the broader societal context is considered, when feminists are exposed to sexist messages in advertising and antiabortion messages, for instance, separatist feminists should now be categorized as fellow ingroup members and even prototypical feminist members. As separatist feminists are seen as holding views that help fashion a distinct and clear identity that separates the group of feminists from broader society, they should be considered prototypical. The ingroup norm, in such conditions, shifts in a direction that is far removed and displaced away from the position held by outgroup members; in other words, the group polarizes away from the outgroup position (Hogg, Turner, & Davidson, 1990; Turner, Wetherell, & Hogg, 1989; Abrams & Hogg, 1990). Shifting intergroup contexts, where the prototype of the group shifts per the intergroup context of comparison, can impact ingroup norms and who has greater normative influence within the group.

In a similar vein, Giles (2012) discusses the importance of the intergroup context in shaping ingroup norms and how groups’ vigilance toward challenges to intergroup distinctiveness leads them to adopt changes to normative group practices. Using the example of social mobility between groups, Giles explains that when members of subordinate groups aim to move into dominant groups in an intergroup context, they do so by adopting and accommodating to the communicative practices and markers of the dominant group, with the aim of appearing to be a real member of the dominant group. While members of subordinate groups seek upward mobility by accommodating to the communicative practices of dominant groups, members of dominant groups might also adopt the communicative habits of subordinate groups, especially habits that are prized by subordinate groups. Although such accommodation in the form of gravitating toward the accent, language, and specific communicative patterns used by members of outgroups aids mobility across group boundaries, it also threatens the distinctiveness of intergroup boundaries.

Given that groups seek to maintain positive intergroup distinctiveness in intergroup contexts, such threats to the distinctiveness of group boundaries lead dominant group members to engage in practices aimed at changing their communicative habits and practices in order to maintain distinctiveness from subordinate group members (Giles, 2012). That is, members of dominant groups might choose to alter ways of behaving, speaking, or symbols of their identity in order to maintain separateness from subordinate groups to reinstate the distinctiveness of intergroup boundaries. Moreover, subordinate group members whose practices are adopted by dominant groups might view the adoption of practices that represent their group as an appropriation of their cultural symbols and identity, leading to efforts to preserve their identity and maintain distinctiveness from dominant outgroups. Thus, the intergroup context is pertinent for understanding how groups shape and shift social identities and are defined.

In this chapter, a social identity analysis has been presented on the communication of norms, norm changes within groups, and the impact that intergroup contexts can have on norms within groups. This analysis helps us understand how group members come to learn and seek clarification of ingroup norms, who to look to within groups for such information, and how intergroup contexts can shape within-group norms. The concept of norm talk or within-group communication that captures the exchange of information regarding group attributes and normative practices was discussed. Such norm talk can take the form of conveying normative information through prototypical behaviors that define the group, communicative practices that signify group attributes, and promulgation of normative information by influential ingroup members such as leaders. By attending to such norm talk, group members can gain vital information that informs them about prototypical ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving within the group.

Discussion of the Literature

In this chapter, the processes through which normative standards within the group are communicated are explored by examining the concept of norm talk. Previous research that addresses the processes that underlie norm formation, shifts, and communication has been reviewed; however, the specific processes underlying norm formation, norm change, and norm promulgation within groups deserve further attention. It is through these processes that group attributes such as thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that shape the social identities of individuals come to be consensually shared within groups.

The role played by ingroup sources with differential levels of influence forms an important aspect of the literature on normative influence within groups. As group members differ in the positions they hold within the group relative to the ingroup prototype, they have differential levels of influence in shaping and informing group members of what is normative within the group (e.g., Hogg & Reid, 2006). Thus, group members who are more prototypical within the group and embody the group’s attributes have more influence than members who occupy positions on the margins and are less prototypical of the group. Research within the social identity theory of leadership (e.g., Hogg & van Knippenberg, 2003) discusses the influence leaders have within groups and the extent to which this influence stems from their occupation of the prototypical position within groups. The influence leaders have on ingroup norms and the prototype has also been explored with regard to the extent to which leaders are given the leeway to bring about social change, and an important aspect of such change can be understood as shifts in the norms of the group (e.g., Seyranian, 2012, 2014; Seyranian & Bligh, 2008). Meanwhile, in contrast to influential ingroup sources, the role that marginal or less prototypical members play within groups has been explored in detail in research on the subjective group dynamics model (e.g., Abrams, Marques, Bown, & Dougill, 2002; Abrams, Marques, Bown, & Henson, 2000; Marques, Abrams, & Serôdio, 2001). Less prototypical members wield lower levels of normative influence relative to prototypical members within the group. Such members, because of their deviation from the prescriptive norms of the group, typically have lower influence in shaping and changing ingroup norms.

Future research could build on existing work on differential influence that members have within groups to further explore the processes by which prototypical and non-prototypical members aim to bring about shifts in ingroup norms. In a similar vein, the ways in which norm talk within groups shapes intergroup attitudes and behavior when competitive or conflicting outgroups are present could be further explored. In such instances, norm talk by prototypical ingroup sources (for instance, by leaders and the media) could be examined further in light of the impact it has on intergroup relations and intragroup attitudes and behavior. Moreover, the concept of norm talk or the communication of normative information in small and large groups deserves further attention. The specific differences in norm talk by ingroup members who occupy different positions relative to the prototype could be studied, for example. Further, the processes through which media sources engage in norm talk, with the aim of informing group members of group-relevant information, constitute an interesting avenue to explore in future research.

Further Reading

Hogg, M. A., & Giles, H. (2012). Norm talk and identity in intergroup communication. In H. Giles (Ed.), The handbook of intergroup communication (pp. 373–388). New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Hogg, M. A., & Reid, S. A. (2006). Social identity, self-categorization, and the communication of group norms. Communication Theory, 16, 7–30.Find this resource:


Abrams, D., & Hogg, M. A. (1988). Comments on the motivational status of self‐esteem in social identity and intergroup discrimination. European Journal of Social Psychology, 18, 317–334.Find this resource:

Abrams, D., & Hogg, M. A. (1990). Social identification, self-categorization and social influence. European Review of Social Psychology, 1, 195–228.Find this resource:

Abrams, D., & Hogg, M. A. (2010). Social identity and self-categorization. In J. F. Dovidio, M. Hewstone, P. Glick, & V. M. Esses (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination (pp. 179–193). London: SAGE.Find this resource:

Abrams, D., Marques, J. M., Bown, N. J., & Dougill, M. (2002). Anti-norm and pro-norm deviance in the bank and on the campus: Two experiments on subjective group dynamics. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 5, 163–182.Find this resource:

Abrams, D., Marques, J. M., Bown, N. J., & Henson, M. (2000). Pro-norm and anti-norm deviance within and between groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 906–912.Find this resource:

David, B., & Turner, J. C. (1999). Studies in self‐categorization and minority conversion: The ingroup minority in intragroup and intergroup contexts. British Journal of Social Psychology, 38, 115–134.Find this resource:

Fielding, K. S., & Hogg, M. A. (1997). Social identity, self- categorization, and leadership: A field study of small interactive groups. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 1, 39–51.Find this resource:

Frings, D., & Abrams, D. (2010). The effect of difference oriented communication on the subjective validity of an in-group norm: DOC can treat the group. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 14, 281–291.Find this resource:

Giles, H. (2012). Principles of intergroup communication. In H. Giles (Ed.), The handbook of intergroup communication (pp. 3–16). New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

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