Responding to Group-Directed Criticism
Atwell Seate, Anita
Fink, Edward L
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In this dissertation, I investigated how group members respond to a criticism of their group. Realizing the conflict between two literatures, the black sheep effect and the intergroup sensitivity effect, I drew on theories of face, social identity threat, and emotion to create an integrative model. The model proposed that contextual factors (presence of an outgroup audience and critic’s group membership), a message attribute (message accuracy), and individual perceptions (presumed media influence on the outgroup and identity importance) work in tandem to predict perceived threats to social identity (through perceived critic’s constructiveness) and to collective face. These threat perceptions in turn predict a series of evaluative, emotional, and behavioral intention outcomes. Three pilot studies were conducted to construct the message stimuli, validate the instruments, and check the manipulation of message accuracy and the assumptions of the theoretical model. An experiment was conducted to test the proposed model. Findings have suggested that (1) it is important to consider multiple causes of threat perceptions; (2) it is necessary to differentiate the two types of collective face threats, as well as the four types of social identity threats; (3) some threat perceptions can lead to desirable outcomes; (4) there may be two major strategies to restore positive distinctiveness of the group in the face of criticism; (5) collective face threat can lead to facework by group members, which involves resolving the issue mentioned in the group criticism; and (6) future research on group criticism should examine the nuances of critic’s group membership, as well as the effects of expected critic’s effort. Although with limitations, this study contributes to theory and research on group criticism specifically, and on intergroup communication more broadly.