Sugaring the pill: Assessing rhetorical strategies designed to minimize defensive reactions to group criticism

Hornsey, Matthew J. and Robson, Erin and Smith, Joanne and Esposo, Sarah and Sutton, Robbie M. (2008) Sugaring the pill: Assessing rhetorical strategies designed to minimize defensive reactions to group criticism. Human Communication Research, 34 (1). 70-U119. ISSN 0360-3989. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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People are considerably more defensive in the face of group criticism when the criticism comes from an out-group rather than an in-group member (the intergroup sensitivity effect). We tested three strategies that out-group critics can use to reduce this heightened defensiveness. In all studies, Australians received criticism of their country either from another Australian or from a foreigner. In Experiment 1, critics who attached praise to the criticism were liked more and agreed with more than were those who did not. In Experiment 2, out-group critics were liked more and aroused less negativity when they acknowledged that the problems they identified in the target group were shared also by their own in-group. In both experiments, the ameliorative effects of praise and acknowledgment were fully mediated by attributions of constructiveness. Experiment 3 tested the strategy of spotlighting; that is, of putting on the record that you intend your comments to apply to just a portion of the group rather than to the whole group. This strategy-which did not directly address the attributional issues that are presumed to underpin the intergroup sensitivity effect-proved ineffective. Practical and theoretical implications for intergroup communication are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Jane Griffiths
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2009 15:36
Last Modified: 09 May 2014 13:23
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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