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Advances in Intergroup Communication


Edited By Howard Giles and Anne Maass

Advances in Intergroup Communication is a timely contribution to the field. It reflects developments in older, more established intergroup settings (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, organizations) whilst introducing newer studies such as the military and political parties. It also pays attention to emerging trends in new media and social networks and considers the developing field of neuroscience of communication.
The volume brings together authors from different geographical areas (North America, Europe, and Australia) and from different disciplines (particularly communication, linguistics, and psychology). Contributions are organized around five themes, corresponding to the five sections of the book: defining features and constraints; tools of intergroup communication; social groups in their context; intergroup communication in organizations; and future directions.
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Chapter Twelve: Communication of the “Invisible”: Disclosing and Inferring Sexual Orientation through Visual and Vocal Cues


← 192 | 193 →CHAPTER TWELVE

Communication of the “Invisible”

Disclosing and Inferring Sexual Orientation Through Visual and Vocal Cues


When encountering people or learning about them from the media, we often spontaneously categorize them according to their gender, race, and age. This allows us to make a distinction between “us” and “them” depending on a salient group membership (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Sometimes we go one step further trying to guess category memberships that are invisible. This is the case for sexual orientation (SO), an invisible and intrinsically private characteristic that remains uncertain until individuals explicitly self-disclose. Whereas gender, race or age can be recognized with relative ease by means of their physical correlates, it is more difficult to identify biological or physical expressions of SO on which to base categorization. When group membership is uncertain, communication of social identity becomes particularly relevant: Individuals need to know whom they are interacting with in order to get prepared for social interactions (Hogg, 2007). Conversely, high levels of uncertainty may well interfere with verbal communication (Berger & Calabrese, 1975). SO communication is thus likely to shape interpersonal and intergroup relations (Hajek & Giles, 2002; Hajek, Abrams, & Murachver, 2005).

Communication of SO involves a communicator and a receiver. Although the present chapter will address both sides of this process, the literature is tilted towards the receiver end and this asymmetry will necessarily be reflected here. In...

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