Responding to messages about groups : where social identity and communication processes meet
People are more sensitive to criticism of their group when made by an outgroup
member than when made by an ingroup member (Homsey, Oppes, & Svensson, 2002).
Outgroup members are perceived as relatively malicious in their intentions and lacking
in experience compared to 'insiders'. Homsey and colleagues argue that these
perceived differences arise from social identity concerns driven by ingroup members'
need to hold their group in positive regard.
However, people's reactions to critical group messages may also be driven by
social norms that govern communication in general (Brown & Levinson, 1987). To test
this explanation, the current research examines the importance of message source and
communicative context in shaping insiders' reactions to group criticism, and the
reactions of 'bystanders' who are not members of the criticised group.
The ISE was found for both insiders and bystanders. Because bystanders have
no vested interest in the criticised group, it is unlikely that social identity concerns
drove this effect. However, both insiders and bystanders only preferred intragroup
criticism to intergroup criticism when the audience consisted of ingroup members alone.
These results suggest that there may be nonnative concerns about the perceived
consequences or potential damage of taking criticism outside a group.
In the next studies participants were asked to rate the acceptability of criticism
under a range of conditions. Results verified that internal criticism is seen as more
normatively acceptable than external criticism. Also, when general norms associated
with the appropriate intentions and expertise underlying criticism were controlled for,
there was no difference in acceptability of internal versus external criticism. These results suggest that general communicative norms drive people's reactions to group
criticism. This thesis contributes to the understanding of intergroup relations by
complementing the social identity account of people's reactions to group criticism.