Shared Reality in Intergroup Communication: Increasing the Epistemic Authority of an Out-Group Audience

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Abstract

Communicators typically tune messages to their audience’s attitude. Such audience tuning biases communicators’ memory for the topic toward the audience’s attitude to the extent that they create a shared reality with the audience. To investigate shared reality in intergroup communication, we first established that a reduced memory bias after tuning messages to an out-group (vs. in-group) audience is a subtle index of communicators’ denial of shared reality to that out-group audience (Experiments 1a and 1b). We then examined whether the audience-tuning memory bias might emerge when the out-group audience’s epistemic authority is enhanced, either by increasing epistemic expertise concerning the communication topic or by creating epistemic consensus among members of a multiperson out-group audience. In Experiment 2, when Germans communicated to a Turkish audience with an attitude about a Turkish (vs. German) target, the audience-tuning memory bias appeared. In Experiment 3, when the audience of German communicators consisted of 3 Turks who all held the same attitude toward the target, the memory bias again appeared. The association between message valence and memory valence was consistently higher when the audience’s epistemic authority was high (vs. low). An integrative analysis across all studies also suggested that the memory bias increases with increasing strength of epistemic inputs (epistemic expertise, epistemic consensus, and audience-tuned message production). The findings suggest novel ways of overcoming intergroup biases in intergroup relations.

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