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In the paper “Does It Matter Who We are Communicating about?” the author conducts research in the area of stereotype communication, which has shown, using various paradigms, a reliable bias toward the communication of stereotype-consistent information over the stereotype-inconsistent information…
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Does It Matter Who We are Communicating about
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Does It Matter Who We are Communicating
Tim Kurz
Newcastle University, UK and Murdoch University, Australia
Anthony Lyons
Newcastle University, UK
Past research in the area of stereotype communication has shown, using
various paradigms, a reliable bias toward the communication of stereotype
consistent information over stereotype inconsistent information (a stereotype
consistency bias). One aspect of such communication that has received
little attention, however, is the social context in which such communication
occurs, and in particular, the group membership of the individuals
involved. In the present study, we further unpack the stereotype consistency
bias by varying the relative group memberships of the communicator,
target, and audience of a narrative and examine the effect of the communication
of stereotype consistent and inconsistent information. Our results
suggest that these group memberships can have a dramatic effect upon
stereotype communication, with the stereotype consistency bias only being
evident in specific communicative contexts. Findings are discussed in
terms of theoretical implications for the stereotype communication field,
with particular focus on the socially connective functions of stereotypes.
The social cognition literature relating to stereotyping has identified a variety of
cognitive processes thought to underlie the formation, maintenance, and change
of stereotypes (e.g., Fiske, 1998; Hamilton, Stroessner, & Driscoll, 1994; Hilton &
von Hippel, 1996; von Hippel, Sekaquaptewa, & Vargas, 1995). While this work
provides an invaluable insight into the individual cognitive processes involved,
there is a growing body of work that has taken a somewhat different approach
to the study of stereotypes. This approach focuses on the interpersonal aspects of
stereotypes and conceptualizes them as being produced, shared, and maintained
through communication.
One approach to the study of the communication of stereotypes focuses on discussions
between ingroup dyads about an outgroup, or a member of an outgroup.
For example, Harasty’s (1997) content analysis of communication among ingroup
dyads suggested that discussions about outgroups contained more group-level
comments and fewer self-referent comments than ingroup discussions. Moreover,
Ruscher and colleagues have suggested that the prevalence of stereotypical descriptions
in discussions of outgroups within ingroup dyads may stem from a desire
to affirm shared beliefs about the outgroup (for reviews, see Ruscher, 1998;
Ruscher & Hammer, 2006). Thus, it would appear that one of the key aspects inherent
in the communication of stereotypes is the extent to which they can be used
to establish, verify, or demonstrate a shared understanding of outgroups among
ingroup members.
In addition to dyad and group discussion paradigms, other researchers have
investigated the process of stereotype communication through the study of the
ways in which narratives about group members are reproduced between participants.
Numerous studies have found that as these narratives are communicated
between participants they tend to be stripped of stereotype inconsistent information
(SI), with stereotype consistent (SC) information being retained (e.g., Kashima,
2000; Lyons & Kashima, 2001; Lyons & Kashima, 2003; McIntyre, Lyons, Clark,
& Kashima, 2004). Moreover, this stereotype consistency bias has been shown to be
attributable to communication processes (i.e., communication goals) rather than
being the result of general memory biases (Lyons & Kashima, 2006). Further studies
have also attempted to explain the underpinnings of an SC bias in relation to
its potentially greater communicability (Schaller, Conway, & Tanchuk, 2002), and
its potential for fostering greater social connectivity with a conversational partner
(Clark & Kashima, 2007; Ruscher, Cralley, & O’Farrell, 2005) .
One dimension that has tended to be relatively under-theorized in studies of the
interpersonal or communicative aspects of stereotypes has been that of variations
in intergroup context. That is, the relationship between the group memberships
of the communicator, the audience, and target (i.e., the individual being communicated
about). The importance of intergroup context in relation to the cognitive
process of stereotyping has long been highlighted by a number of researchers,
especially those adopting a Self Categorization Theory (SCT) perspective (e.g.,
Oakes, Haslam, & Turner, 1994). Studies conducted within the SCT tradition have
demonstrated that stereotypical cognitive representations of social groups can be influenced
by the comparative contexts in which they are measured (for examples,
see Haslam, Oakes, Turner, & McGarty, 1995; Haslam, Turner, Oakes, McGarty,
& Hayes, 1992; Hopkins & Murdoch, 1999; Hopkins, Regan, & Abell, 1997). This
research provides evidence for the ability of an intergroup context to influence
individuals’ cognitive representations of both outgroups and ingroups. In light of
this, it would seem logical to also investigate the influence of intergroup context
upon the communication of stereotypes about social groups through narratives.
An account of stereotype communication derived from an SCT perspective (e.g.,
Oakes, Haslam, & Turner, 1994) suggests that an intergroup (as opposed to intragroup)
context would be likely to result in an interpretation and communication of
information in more stereotypical, group-level, terms. In line with this, Wigboldus,
Spears, and Semin (2005) invoked the concept of the social communicative context to
draw a theoretical distinction between “intragroup” and “intergroup” communicative
contexts. The former refers to a situation in which the communicator, target,
and audience are all members of the same social group (e.g., male communicator,
male target, male audience), while the latter refers to a situation where the communicative
context is not homogenous in relation to group membership. Specifically,
Wigboldus et al. (2005) assessed the influence of an intergroup context on
participants’ tendencies to show a bias toward the description of SC information
at a higher level of linguistic abstractness (Semin & Fiedler, 1988) than SI information,
that is, a Linguistic Expectancy Bias (LEB) in communication (Maass, 1999;
Wigboldus et al., 2000). Wigboldus et al. (2005) found this linguistic expectancy bias
only occurred when the communicative context was intergroup, with no LEB effect
occurring in an intragroup context.
Wigboldus et al.’s (2005) proposed model for explaining these findings centers
around the notion that an intergroup context leads to the activation of relevant
stereotypes, “which reveals itself in an LEB effect” (p. 226), with the intragroup
context less likely to lead to such activation, and thus no LEB effects. What is implicit
in this model is a fairly direct correspondence between cognitive activation of
stereotypical information and its communication.
However, as suggested by Higgins (1981; McCann & Higgins, 1992), as well
as many researchers working from within a discursive social psychological perspective
(e.g., Edwards & Potter, 1992; Potter & Wetherell, 1987), communication
should not necessarily be thought of as simply a direct transmission of information
between minds, but, rather, as a purposeful social interaction that occurs within
a particular social context. From Higgins’s perspective, communication achieves
multiple goals that are determined by numerous features of any given interaction.
Two such features include (a) the characteristics of the audience and (b) the type
of relationship participants wish to establish or maintain between themselves. We
would therefore expect the specific nature of an intergroup communicative context
to have an important effect on the extent to which stereotypes are communicated.
For example, the intergroup context defined by Wigboldus et al. (2005) as an ingroup
member (e.g., male) communicating about an outgroup member (e.g., female)
to an ingroup member (e.g., male) is likely to follow very different communication
rules to an alternative intergroup context where an ingroup member (male)
communicates about an outgroup member (female) to a member of that same outgroup
(female). In other words, communicating stereotypes, especially negative
stereotypes, about an outgroup member to an ingroup member may serve to foster
camaraderie and social connectivity, whereas communicating stereotypes of an
outgroup to a member of that outgroup, or of a fellow ingroup member, may have
an opposite effect.
We posit that one explanation for Wigboldus et al.’s failure to find such differential
and nuanced effects between different types of intergroup contexts may stem
from the particular paradigm and dependent measures adopted, namely the level
of linguistic abstraction. While recent research has demonstrated that communicators
may, under certain circumstances, be able to consciously inhibit the LEB effect
(Douglas, Sutton, & Wilkin, 2008), it would seem unlikely that audiences would
be consciously aware of the communication of SC and SI information at different
levels of abstraction, thus potentially removing the need for the communicator to
monitor his or her LEB as a function of the group membership of the audience.
However, one might predict different results using measures of the amount of SC
and SI information reproduced, which is more likely to be noticed by an audience
than would be the case for abstractness levels, and therefore would be more likely
to be manipulated by communicators according to specific features of the intergroup
The Current Research
The aim of the present research was to extend past work in the stereotype communication
literature by examining whether the social communicative context influences
the tendency toward a stereotype consistency bias in the reproduction of
narratives about a target. More specifically, we investigate whether, following Higgins’s
(1981; McCann & Higgins, 1992) multiple goals account of communication,
participants vary the level of stereotypicality of their communication depending
on different types of intergroup contexts. We hypothesized, following Clark and
Kashima (2007), Ruscher, Cralley, and O’Farrell (2005), and also Higgins (1981),
that the intergroup context that creates the greatest social connectivity (ingroup
members communicating with ingroup members about outgroup members) is
likely to produce the greatest SC bias. The intragroup context, on the other hand,
would be predicted to produce an SI bias because of a desire to avoid ingroup
stereotypes. The intergroup contexts involving ingroup communicators and outgroup
audiences were predicted to produce either no SC bias or an SI bias because
of politeness goals, that is, not wanting to offend the outgroup or portray one’s
own group in a better light.
Our research used stereotypes about social class in the United Kingdom and experimentally
manipulated social communicative context on the basis of this social
category. We did not, in the present study, adopt the serial reproduction paradigm
commonly used in past research, in which the narratives are passed through multiple
reiterations (retellings) along a “chain,” opting instead for a single-reiteration
paradigm. With the exception of one study (Kashima, 2000), 1 past studies using
serial reproduction chains have found a significant SC bias (or at least tendency
toward it) at the first point in the chain (Clark & Kashima, 2007; Lyons & Kashima,
2001, 2003, 2006). Given our focus on the social communicative context, we
therefore chose not to investigate whether the observed effects would be amplified
across multiple positions in a serial reproduction chain.
1. The Kashima (2000) study found an SI bias at the first link in the chain, which later became an
SC bias further down the chain. The difference, however, between this study and subsequent studies
(that showed SC biases from start to finish) was the likelihood that Kashima (2000) was picking
up basic memory biases. Kashima found no difference between “memory” and “communication”
instruction conditions, potentially on account of the weakness of the operationalization of the
communication instructions. Subsequent studies, however, more strongly emphasized interpersonal
communication in their instructions to participants.
Parti cipant s
The study involved 80 male (non-psychology) undergraduate students who participated
voluntarily and were paid £5 (U.S. $9) for their time. Participants ranged
in age from 17 to 46 years, with a mean age of 19.77 (SD = 3.34) years. Each participant
was randomly assigned to one of the four experimental conditions (created
by the 2-level manipulation of the target and audience of the communication). All
participants self-identified as “middle class.”
Experimenta l Design
The study employed a 2 x 2 x 2 mixed factorial design with Target (Working Class
vs. Middle Class) and Audience (Working Class vs. Middle Class) as between-subject
factors, and Stereotypicality (SC vs. SI) as a within-subject factor. Participants
were evenly divided between all conditions.
Materia ls
Three main stimulus materials were used in this study. The first was a story about
a fictitious character (target) called “Steve.” The second item was a background
description of “Steve,” which portrayed him as either working or middle class.
Third, an audience description of a fictitious participant (“Michael”) was used,
which portrayed him as either working or middle class.
The Story. The story stimulus contained 685 words. To create a story that participants
would believe had been written by another participant, an attempt was
made to ensure that the sentence structure was relatively naturalistic and complex
(see appendix for the full story used). The story contained 16 stereotype-relevant
items. Half (8) of these items were stereotype consistent with regards to the working
class (WC-SC) and, at the same time, stereotype inconsistent with regards to
the middle class (MC-SI). The other half (8) of the items were stereotype consistent
with regards to the middle class (MC-SC), and, at the same time, stereotype inconsistent
with regards to the working class (WC-SI). As such, half of the items were
always SC and half were always SI, whether the target (“Steve”) was described
as being working class or middle class. The consistent/inconsistent status of the
items, however, was obviously reversed when switching from a working class to a
middle class target and vice versa. Within each of the two sets of 8 SI and SC items,
half of these items (4) were controlled to be positive in valence and half were negative
in valence.
The story was pilot tested with a sample of 15 undergraduate students who
rated each of the 16 items in terms of how stereotypical they felt that the actions,
thoughts, or emotions of the target depicted in the item were of both the working
class and the middle class. Items were rated on a scale from 1 (not stereotypical at
all) to 7 (extremely stereotypical) for both working and middle class. The mean ratings
for each item were found to fall on the appropriate ends of the scale (i.e., 1.0 to
3.5 for SI items and 4.5 to 7.0 for SC items) with regards to both working class and
middle class stereotypicality. Pilot participants also rated the extent to which they
believed that the actions, thoughts or emotions displayed by the target in each
item would be generally thought of as being positive or negative. Mean ratings for
each item were again found to fall on the appropriate ends of the scale.
Manipulation of Demographic Variables for the Target. At the top of the page above
the story, participants were provided with “some background information about
Steve” that was said to have been written using information provided by “Steve”
himself. This description was manipulated to depict Steve as either working or
middle class by varying information such as which schools he had attended, his
current occupation, and place of residence. In the pilot testing, all 15 respondents
correctly identified “Steve the doctor” as middle class and “Steve the forklift driver”
as working class when asked to categorize the descriptions.
Manipulation of Demographic Variables for Audience. In the space above the blank
lines upon which participants wrote their retelling of the story was a brief description
of the person who would ostensibly be reading it. This description was
manipulated in a similar way to the target description, such that the audience
(“Michael”) was depicted as either working or middle class. All 15 respondents
correctly identified “Michael the cleaner” as working class and “Michael the architect”
as middle class when asked to categorize the descriptions in pilot testing.
Before reading the story, participants read instructions informing them that they
were about to read an account of a weekend in the life of a particular individual
(Steve), which ostensibly came from a diary entry made by someone who participated
in some previous research looking at how people write diaries. Participants
were told they were about to read a retelling of the original diary entry, which had
been written by an earlier participant in the current study.
Participants were then handed the story to read. At the top of this page was a
heading, “Background,” under which was placed the target description (either the
working class version or the middle class version). Below this was a second heading
which read “Summary of diary entries made over one weekend,” after which
came the story itself.
Once the participant had read the story and handed it back to the experimenter
they were asked to perform a filler task for ten minutes. They were then asked to
rewrite the story in their own words on a blank sheet of paper that was headed
with instructions that informed them that their account would be read by “Michael,”
another participant in the study, for whom a brief description was also
provided (either the working class or middle class version). Participants were told
that in a later version of the study the researchers hoped to use face-to-face interaction,
but that since this was not possible in the current study, participants were at
least being provided with some information about the person who would be reading
their retelling of the story, so that they could visualize their audience.
No time limit was given for reproducing the story. Afterward, participants were
thoroughly debriefed, thanked for their participation, and reimbursed for their
Coding the Reproductions
Each reproduction was coded by two expert coders in relation to whether or not
the 16 stereotype relevant items (8 WC-SC/MC-SI and 8 WC-SI/MC-SC) were
present. An item was judged to be present if the stereotype meaning of the original
item was retained. It was not necessary for the item to be reproduced verbatim. A
high level of inter-rater reliability was obtained, Kappa = .93.
Primary Ana lyses
The reproduction coding data was analyzed using a 2 x 2 x 2 (Stereotypicality x
Target x Audience) mixed model ANOVA, with Stereotypicality as a within-subjects
variable and Target and Audience as between-subjects variables.
No significant main effect was obtained for Stereotypicality, F(1, 76) = 2.32, p =
.13) with only a very slight SC bias being observed (M = 59.69 vs. M = 55.93). In addition,
no significant two-way interaction was obtained between Stereotypicality
and Audience, F(1, 76) = 0.40, p = .53. However, the reason for the absence of these
effects becomes apparent when one examines the way in which both effects were
moderated by significant interactions with Target.
The Moderating Effect of Target. First, a significant Stereotypicality x Target interaction
occurred, F(1, 76) = 38.61, p < .001. When the middle class participants
communicated a story about a working class person they reproduced more SC (M
= 63.43) than SI (M = 44.38) information, t(39) = 5.20, p < .001, however when they
were communicating about a fellow middle class person, they reproduced more
SI (M = 76.5) than SC (M = 55.94) information, t(39) = 3.06, p = .004. This effect
was subsumed, however, under a significant 3-way Stereotypicality x Audience x
Target interaction, F(1, 76) = 12.61, p = .001. As Figure 1 shows, when the Audience
was a fellow middle class person and the Target was working class, communicators
reproduced more SC (M = 69.38) than SI (M = 40.00) information, t(19) = 6.20,
p < .001 but more SI (M = 66.88) than SC (48.12) information when the Target was
middle class, t(19) = 3.52, p = .002. However, when the Audience of the communication
was a working class person, no statistically significant biases were found
for either the middle class Target, t(19) = 0.88, p = .39 or the working class Target,
t(19) = 1.88, p = .07.
Our results demonstrate the importance of considering the specific nature of the
social communicative context when studying interpersonal communication of stereotypes.
In the current study, the SC bias commonly observed in the reproduction
of narratives (e.g., Kashima, 2000; Lyons & Kashima, 2001; Lyons & Kashima, 2003;
McIntyre, Lyons, Clark, & Kashima, 2004) was found to be dependent upon the
specific intergroup or intragroup communicative context. When communicating
to another ingroup member about an outgroup member, participants displayed
a clear SC bias. However, when communicating to an ingroup member about an900
other member of the ingroup, participants showed the reverse effect, an SI bias.
Interestingly, both the outgroup SC bias and the ingroup SI bias failed to occur (to
a level of significance) when the audience of the communication was an outgroup
These results offer an interesting comparison to those in Wigboldus et al.’s (2005)
study in which an LEB effect occurred in their intergroup contexts and a reversed
LEB or no LEB effect in an intragroup context. As we predicted, we also found a
reverse SC (i.e., SI) bias in an intragroup context but a more complex pattern of results
was obtained for intergroup contexts using our reproduction paradigm. Our
results show an SC bias in the intergroup context in which an ingroup member
communicated about an outgroup member to another ingroup member. However,
we did not find significant stereotype-related communication biases in the intergroup
condition in which ingroup members were communicating to outgroup
members, regardless of the group membership of the target involved.
Following Higgins (1981), this suggests that when it comes to reproducing narratives,
communicators tailor their communication to specific features of an intergroup
context rather than simply emphasizing the stereotypical in any intergroup
context, as might be expected from an SCT perspective (e.g., Oakes, Haslam, &
Turner, 1994). In other words, the presence of an outgroup audience inhibited a
communicator’s usual tendency to favor the transmission of SC information.
Moreover, our results suggest that measures based on the amount of reproduced
SC and SI information may be more sensitive to specific features of intergroup
contexts than LEB effects, given that Wigboldus et al. (2005) were unable to detect
these differences.
In line with Clark and Kashima (2007) and Ruscher, Cralley, and O’Farrell (2005),
we suggest that the socially connective functions of stereotype communication
best explains our results. For example, Ruscher, Cralley, and O’Farrell demonstrated
that newly acquainted dyads that were manipulated to perceive a greater level
of “closeness” between themselves and their ingroup partner were more likely to
engage in stereotypically biased communication about an outgroup member than
FIGURE 1. The mean percentage of SC and SI items communicated according to Target for each
Audience condition.
Audience = Middle Class
66.88 69.38
Middle Class Working Class
Social Class of Target
Mean % of items communicated
Audience = Working Class
Middle Class Working Class
Social Class of Target
Mean % of items communicated
dyads who did not receive the closeness manipulation. Also, as mentioned earlier,
Clark and Kashima (2007) demonstrated that participants perceive SC information
as more useful than SI information when it comes to the formation or maintenance
of social relationships. That is, stereotypes are potentially used to create closeness,
or social connectivity, rather than merely being a product of closeness or social connectivity.
So in relation to the present findings, communicating stereotypes about
an outgroup member to an ingroup member may help foster greater social connectivity.
Moreover, because communicating stereotypes of the ingroup to other
ingroup members or of the outgroup to members of that outgroup is likely to
seem offensive and therefore result in reduced connectivity, communicators avoid
favoring SC information and communicate more SI information in these contexts.
One limitation of the present study that should be considered relates to our use
of social class as the social category in question. While social class was specifically
chosen due to its real-world significance (especially in a British context; cf, Argyle,
1994), it is worth considering how “hot” or socially contentious this social category
really is when considered in the wider spectrum of categories such as race.
As Ruscher et al. (2005) suggest, the socially connective functions of a particular
stereotype are likely to be highly influenced by social norms regarding the social
acceptability of communicating stereotypes of that particular social group. A consideration
of this possibility would, to our mind, suggest two important avenues
for future research. First, at a theoretical level, it would appear pertinent for future
studies to examine the communication of stereotypes relating to highly contentious
social categories such as racial, religious, or ethnic stereotypes. Second, future research
should also take into account the beliefs communicators have about the
social appropriateness of communicating particular stereotypes in particular communicative
contexts. While we have examined here the specific effect of group
membership, future work should consider other variables that may influence a
communicator’s perceptions of how receptive an audience is likely to be to the
communication of particular stereotypes.
In conclusion, the current research provides strong support for considering the
social communicative context when examining processes surrounding stereotype
communication in the reproduction of narratives. On the basis of our findings, the
stereotype consistency bias that has been commonly observed in past research (e.g.,
Brauer, Judd, & Jacquelin, 2001; Harasty, 1997; Kashima, 2000; Lyons & Kashima,
2001; Lyons & Kashima, 2003; McIntyre, Lyons, Clark, & Kashima, 2004; Ruscher,
1998; Ruscher & Hammer, 2006) becomes far more complex, nuanced, and multifaceted
when one considers the social context in which the communication of stereotypes
takes place. Specifically, we have demonstrated, using a narrative reproduction
paradigm, that the tendency to reproduce stereotypical information about
a target individual can be greatly influenced by the relative group memberships
of the communicator, the target, and the audience of that communication. Furthermore,
our results point to a need to theorize the influence of intergroup context on
the communication of stereotypes in a potentially more nuanced way than is currently
offered by accounts of the cognitive activation of stereotypes.
Appendix: The sto ry stimulus
Steve had been catching the train to work each day for years, but rarely bothered to buy a
ticket (since he had never had his ticket checked) (WC-SC/MC-SI, negative). On this Friday,
he had been running late for work when he got caught without a ticket on the Metro by
one of the ticket inspectors. Not only did he receive a fine, but the inspector kept lecturing
him for what seemed like forever about how irresponsible it was to not buy a ticket, making
him even later for work.
Although he was furious, he tried to stay calm and just repeatedly said he was sorry and
that he wouldn’t do it again, knowing that getting angry would only make things worse
(WC-SI, MC-SC, positive). Before leaving work that afternoon he had to ring the local
council to find out why they seemed to have been under-charging him on his council tax for
the previous few months (WC-SI, MC-SC, positive). His wife had asked him to buy some
cleaning products on his way home from work. Tesco was more on his way home but Steve
decided to catch the train into the city and go to Morrisons, because he knew that he would
save a bit of money there. (WC-SC, MC-SI, positive). He liked shopping at Morrisons better
anyway as it was less pretentious than some of the more expensive supermarkets like
Sainsburys (WC-SC, MC-SI, positive). He liked to always shop at the same supermarket as
well because he tended to see the same staff at the checkout. He felt like he had some things
in common with them and enjoyed a good chat when they weren’t too busy (WC-SC, MCSI,
positive). Steve and his wife were having Steve’s friend Bill and his wife Alison around
for dinner on Saturday night. Steve had worked with Bill for the past 2 years. Although he
found Bill pretty boring and annoying, Steve had to admit that he kind of enjoyed spending
time with him because Bill was a bit of a loser really and it made him feel better about
himself because he earned more money than Bill and was clearly more interesting (WC-SI,
MC-SC, negative). On Saturday he went into town during the day and bought some expensive
wine glasses so that he could impress Bill (WC-SI, MC-SC, negative). Steve thought it
would be a good idea not to get too drunk in front of his friends, so he just had a couple of
glasses of wine with dinner (WC-SI, MC-SC, positive). Bill had been making a big deal of
how good the wine he had brought was supposed to be, but Steve started to get frustrated
over this because he couldn’t make out a single thing on the label, as it all seemed to be
written in French (WC-SC, MC-SI, negative). On Sunday night Steve went to a pub-quiz
at a local pub near his house. He really didn’t like the pub they went to because people he
didn’t know kept coming up and trying to talk to him (WC-SI, MC-SC, negative). He also
didn’t like the fact that people at that pub were always really shabbily dressed and generally
lacked style (WC-SI, MC-SC, negative). To make matters worse, it was a mission to get
to the tiny bar in between each round of the quiz to get a drink. Whilst Steve was lining up
at the bar to get served some bloke pushed in front of him. He was so furious that he shoved
the guy out of the way and yelled at him. The two of them got into a bit of a shoving match
before the other guys friends pulled him away telling him to leave it alone (WC-SC, MCSI,
negative). The quiz itself was quite fun though as there were lots of questions on topics
that Steve knew a lot about such as history and science (WC-SI, MC- SC, positive). Because
he did so well, his team won. The prize was a Newcastle United Football scarf. Steve was
overjoyed and started cheering like he does at the football. Steve loves football and is a huge
fan of Newcastle United (WC-SC, MC-SI, positive).
After the quiz ended Steve and his friends moved on to another bar. He ended up getting
so drunk that the night ended with him getting thrown out of the bar for being too intoxicated
(WC-SC, MC-SI, negative).
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Bias and Stereotyping in Communication

● potential usefulness

1. Create awareness of stereotyping in communications

2. More effective communication among all teams or members of an organization

3. Greater productivity when all team members feel included

4. Further research may enhance diversity training in organizations

● limitations

1. Research uses social class as the measure of stereotype, could use other measures

2. If groups have more influence on stereotyping in communication, group example in student survey would be more relevant

● assumptions

1. In-groups and out-groups within organizations are typically clearly delineated

2. Stereotyping in communication is always well received among in-group members

3. Group members do not feel ambivalent about different stereotypes within communications in different groups


Endres, D. & Gould, M. (2009). “I am also in a position to use my whiteness to help them out”:

the Communication of whiteness in service learning. Western Journal of Communication,

73(4), 418-436.

The authors discuss the attitudes and theory of whiteness through an analysis of student service
learning projects. A major challenge in service learning is the elimination of whiteness as a factor that influences the message projected by service workers to members of the community
receiving services. Though students were exposed to whiteness theory prior to their service learning experiences, they still tended to project their ideals onto those receiving services. The authors point out that this behavior tends to widen the gap between the privileged and those with fewer means, rather than serving to bridge the gap. This analysis has important implications for
bias in communications. It shows that bias tends to naturally exist through various influences, such as socio-economic status, family experiences and life experiences. Bias in communication then, tends to exist naturally. Awareness alone cannot eliminate bias in communication. It must
also be practiced and the attitudes that create bias must be addressed.

Hanke, S. (2009). Communication styles: What is your impact on others? Professional Safety

(May 2009), 22-25.

The author discusses the importance of learning how to communicate with various personality types, in order to get the message across. By learning about the audience, through observation and body language, the speaker or communicator can adjust or tailor communications that will
reach, rather than offend, multiple members of an audience. This discussion also has implications for communications among individuals. It cannot be assumed that the listener communicates in the same manner as the speaker. The author highlights the need for greater awareness and adaptability in communications, thus eliminating the bias of assuming that the
person receiving the message will interpret the communication exactly as intended.

Kurtz, T. (2009). Intergroup influences on the stereotype consistency bias in communication:

Does it Matter who we are communicating about and who we are communicating to?

Social Cognition, 7(6), 893-904.

The author describes research into the communication that occurs within different social groups,
specifically in terms of language and stereotyping in communication that occurs within those groups. Stereotyping is described as a means within communication, for the individual to gain favor within the group and survey participants are able to identify various forms of stereotyping in a given scenario. The limitations of the research include a scenario describing the behavior of one individual, rather than of multiple group members. The research clearly indicates that stereotyping does occur in communications, within various social contexts. The research also indicates the need for awareness of stereotyping, in communication with a larger audience that may consist of members of very different groups.

Polachek, D. & Frantz, A. (2009). Interactivity Accountability: How are We Educating

Undergraduate Students in Communication Studies? The International Journal of

Learning, 16(9).

The author discusses the importance of addressing all members of an audience, class or group, so
that no specific individual or group feels alienated, during discussions. It is important for all
members of the group or audience to be respected and this is done through inclusion. The authors suggest that, particularly in a class setting, the faculty can set parameters for class communications from the start. It is further suggested that communications within and for a larger group should also consider avoiding language that stereotypes a specific group or groups.

Warner, F. (2008). Improving communication: It’s Everybody’s business. Change (Nov-Dec),
The author stresses the importance of considering the audience in communications. Through the example of the writing assignment given by City University of New York professor Terrance Martell, Warner shows how lack of consideration for the audience can lead to communication that is ineffective and fails to serve its specific purpose. Nearly all of Dr. Martell’s class missed the purpose of the assignment and failed to communicate what was asked. This case presents an argument for teaching methods of communication for a larger audience, in written form. Further investigation of the problem showed that students were not versed in persuasion and argument, within written communication. The implication is that individuals must be taught to consider the audience, in any form of communication. Read More
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