From group-based appraisals to group-based emotions The role of communication and social sharing vincent yzerByt anD toon kuppens
Our research program extends Smith’s insight by putting a much stronger emphasis on the self-categorization mechanism of IET (Yzerbyt and Kuppens, 2009). Because people belong to several groups, and each of these groups can be salient at a particular moment, we focus on the specific way people categorize themselves in a group. To illustrate, one of our early experiments (Gordijn, Wigboldus and Yzerbyt, 2001) examined the emotional reactions of students from the University of Amsterdam as they learned about students from the University of Leiden suffering an unfair decision imposed by their professors. We varied participants’ salient group membership so they would categorize themselves either in the same or in a different category as the victims. Specifically, we informed some participants that the study examined the reactions of students and professors, thereby stressing the joint membership of participants and victims in the student category, or focused on the reactions of students from different universities, thus stressing the different categories between participants and victims. As predicted, participants categorized in the same group as the victims reported more anger than those categorized in a different group. Interestingly enough, studies on group-based emotions always asked participants to report their emotional reactions in isolation (Yzerbyt and Demoulin, 2010). This procedure rests on SCT’s assumption that, in an intergroup comparative context, people depersonalize and function as members of a social group. Interestingly, however, the social landscape with which people are confronted often emerges as a spontaneous by-product of their interactions. Many reactions have at one point or another been communicated to and discussed with others. Indeed, about two thirds of informal conversations are about social topics (Dunbar, Marriott, and Duncan, 1997) and emotional topics in particular are subject to social sharing (Rimé, 2009). One may thus wonder whether groupbased emotions could emerge from social communication, even in the absence of explicit reminders of social identity. There are several reasons to contemplate such a possibility. First, communication concerning emotionally relevant topics forges interpersonal bonds (Peters and Kashima, 2007) and increases group cohesion (Espitalier, Tcherkassof, and Delmas, 2003). Second, communicating about emotion-laden events leads to a shared perspective because of emotion contagion and social appraisals (Manstead and Fischer, 2001), and thus increases group homogeneity. It seems therefore plausible that social sharing leads to a more group-based perspective (or social identity salience). We propose that this group-based point of view manifests itself in group-based appraisals and, in turn, in group-based emotions. Several research efforts (for a recent illustration, see L. G. E. Smith and Postmes, 2011) already investigated the effect of social interactions on groupbased cognition (especially stereotypes). The evidence suggests that social communication affects the content of people’s views about outgroups, although these effects are limited to interactions that occur in an intergroup context. Building upon these studies, we hypothesized that group interaction and communication should foster the emergence of group-based emotions provided the intergroup context is salient during the interaction. Moreover, we conjectured
that such group-based emotions would rest on the emergence of group-based, as opposed to individual, appraisals of the situation. In this chapter, we briefly review four studies conducted to test these ideas.