Uncertainty-identity theory serves as our guiding theoretical framework to explore subjective uncertainty, especially uncertainty about self and identity, and the ways in which communication within groups provides valuable social identity information to group members as a means to manage subjective uncertainty.
We review and synthesize research in communication science and social identity theory, specifically uncertainty-identity theory, to compare diverse understandings of uncertainty and the identity-shaping function of communication within groups.
Uncertainty inherent in dyadic interactions has received extensive attention in communication science. However, the identity-defining function of communication that flows within and between groups as a means to resolving uncertainty about subjectively important matters has received little attention in both social psychology and communication science.
We explore how communication that flows from in-group sources (e.g., leaders) serves to shape a shared reality and identity for group members while providing a framework for self-definition. We propose an agenda for future research that would benefit from an articulation of the importance of communication in the shaping and management of identity-uncertainty.
Uncertainty arousing rhetoric by influential in-group sources, such as leaders and the media can have serious implications for intergroup relations, as uncertain individuals seek distinctive and tight-knit groups and autocratic leaders under conditions of heightened uncertainty. The role that communication plays in shaping clear and distinct identities as a panacea for identity-uncertainty has implications for the intragroup normative structure of the group and for intergroup relations.
We would like to thank Dr. Eusebio Alvaro for reading and providing valuable feedback on an earlier draft of this article.
Belavadi, S. and Hogg, M.A. (2019), "Social Categorization and Identity Processes in Uncertainty Management: The Role of Intragroup Communication", Advances in Group Processes (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 36), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 61-77. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0882-614520190000036006
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