Prejudiced Communication : A Social Psychological Perspective book cover
1st Edition

Prejudiced Communication
A Social Psychological Perspective

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ISBN 9781572306387
Published June 21, 2001 by Guilford Press
240 Pages

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Book Description

Prejudiced communication is everywhere. Sexist jokes are transmitted over the Internet, coworkers tell outrageous stories about cross-cultural interactions, and children observe their parents' disgusted facial expressions as a target of prejudice passes along the street. What functions do these forms of communication serve for individuals, groups, and entire cultures? How do they contribute to the perpetuation of discrimination and status differences based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other stigmatized attributes? And what can be done to reduce prejudiced communication and mitigate its harmful effects? This volume provides a comprehensive examination of these and other questions of critical importance for today's society. Bringing together current theory, empirical research, and real-life examples, it is essential reading for scholars and students in a range of disciplines.

The book first defines key terms and introduces several functions served by prejudiced communication, including the protection of established social hierarchies and the maintenance of cognitive shortcuts. It explores how language reflects categorizations of ingroups and outgroups, and how shared stereotypes are encoded and transmitted. Subsequent chapters address ways that prejudice is subtly or blatantly communicated in interpersonal interactions, including patronizing and controlling speech, discriminatory nonverbal behavior, and disdain for nonstandard accents or dialects. Next, the book examines the larger cultural context, discussing such topics as skewed portrayals in the news media, entertainment, and advertising; hostile humor; and continued legal tolerance of hate speech. Featured throughout are thought-provoking examples drawn from the classroom, the workplace, and other everyday situations. A concluding chapter summarizes major themes of the book and points toward empirical and theoretical gaps that invite further investigation.

Grounded in a social psychological perspective, the book also incorporates ideas and findings from communication, sociology, and related fields. It is an informative resource for anyone interested in prejudice and stereotyping, and an indispensable text for advanced undergraduate and graduate-level courses.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The What and Why of Prejudiced Communication
2. Language That Divides
3. Developing and Using Shared Stereotypes
4. Talking Down to Outgroup Members
5. Preferred Cultural Patterns and Nonverbal Behavior
6. The News Media
7. The Culture of Prejudice
8. Afterword: What Is Known and What Is Unknown

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Janet B. Ruscher, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Tulane University. She earned both an MS degree and a PhD in social psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where she also received the student publication award from Division 8 of the American Psychological Association. Her work at the University of Massachusetts, with Susan Fiske, initially focused on the relation between stereotyping and competitive interdependence, while later work focused on stigma and decisions about discontinuing interdependence. Her current research interests lie primarily with stereotyping and prejudice in everyday communication. Dr. Ruscher's recent empirical work has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and the Journal of Language and Social Psychology. An integrative review of her research on prejudiced communication appeared in the 1998 volume of Advances in Experimental Social Psychology.


This book is a 'must have' for researchers and students who are interested in contemporary theories of prejudice. The book contains a massive amount of useful information about the social transmission and cultural impact of prejudice. It is well organized and filled with engaging examples of how we (explicitly and implicitly) share our prejudices with others. In addition to being a good read, this is a scholarly and complete reference work--an outstanding source of information about such topics as sexist humor, media stereotypes, and hateful speech. For almost any reader, this book is likely to add to their understanding of this important topic and to provide inspiration for their work. --Charles Stangor, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland

This is a timely, thorough, and very interesting book. The breadth of coverage is impressive, ranging from the expressions that people share in informal conversation to the choices that media managers make in television news coverage. All of these actions are artfully shown to contribute to a culture of prejudice. These various processes and their outcomes are explained extremely well, and they are illuminated by an abundance of examples that continually remind one just how prevalent and important these processes are in our everyday lives. Readers will learn a lot not only about interpersonal communication processes, but also about the underlying cognitive processes that influence communication. This book will be a terrifically useful reference for psychologists, as well as scholars in communication, media studies, and sociology. I can't think of a better sourcebook on this domain of scholarly research. It will also serve as an ideal primary text for any graduate or advanced undergraduate psychology course on communication and prejudice, and a great supplemental text for a range of other courses. --Mark Schaller, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia

This is an engaging overview of the way prejudice is communicated from person to person, as well as from the mass media to the public. Ruscher reviews research from several disciplines (including experimental social psychology and communication sciences) to examine such questions as how stereotypes come to be shared and how prejudice is communicated by nonverbal as well as verbal behavior. The volume will be useful to those who research prejudice, stereotyping, and mass communication in outlining the next useful set of questions for our fields. I can't wait to use this book in my next undergraduate seminar in stereotyping or prejudice. --Felicia Pratto, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut

Although books abound on the topic of stereotyping and intergroup relations, this is the first to focus on the crucial communication dynamics involved. The book offers cross-disciplinary coverage of a plethora of intergroup contexts. It engages interpersonal interactions as well as advertising, news media, film, and more. As such, it is an essential, absorbing critique of prejudice for communication students and scholars alike. --Howard Giles, DSc, Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara