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Language of the Lost: An Explication of Stigma Communication


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Although stigmas appear throughout history, even in present-day virtual communities, an explanation of stigma communication has yet to be offered; this essay attempts to do just that. This essay argues that stigma communication includes specific content: marks, labels, responsibility, and peril, in order to induce affective and cognitive responses to create stigma attitudes, to generate protective action tendencies, and to encourage the sharing of these messages with others. Stigma messages bear the following attributes: they provide cues (a) to distinguish people, (b) to categorize distinguished people as a separate social entity, (c) to imply a responsibility for receiving placement within this distinguished group and their associated peril, and (d) to link this distinguished group to physical and social peril. Different qualities of stigma messages, moreover, evoke different emotions (disgust, fear, and anger) that motivate people to access relevant social attitudes, form or bolster stigma attitudes, and to remove the stigmatized threat. Stigma attitudes encourage the sharing of stigma messages with others in a network, which may, subsequently, bond in-group members.
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Language of the Lost: An Explication of
Stigma Communication
Rachel A. Smith
Department of Communication Arts & Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802
Although stigmas appear throughout history, even in present-day virtual communities,
an explanation of stigma communication has yet to be offered; this essay attempts to
do just that. This essay argues that stigma communication includes specific content:
marks, labels, responsibility, and peril, in order to induce affective and cognitive
responses to create stigma attitudes, to generate protective action tendencies, and to
encourage the sharing of these messages with others. Stigma messages bear the following
attributes: they provide cues (a) to distinguish people, (b) to categorize distinguished
people as a separate social entity, (c) to imply a responsibility for receiving placement
within this distinguished group and their associated peril, and (d) to link this distin-
guished group to physical and social peril. Different qualities of stigma messages, more-
over, evoke different emotions (disgust, fear, and anger) that motivate people to access
relevant social attitudes, form or bolster stigma attitudes, and to remove the stigma-
tized threat. Stigma attitudes encourage the sharing of stigma messages with others in
a network, which may, subsequently, bond in-group members.
The process of dehumanizing members of a community is not unusual, atypical, nor
out-of-date. From physically branding criminals in ancient Greece (Papadopoulos,
2000) to isolating people affected by leprosy (Hyland, 2000) in the 20th century, one
may notice a special case of normative influence, that of stigma. Curtis (1992)
documents one example of a community’s reaction to a member who violated their
rules. After attempts to socialize a community member failed, a community’s leaders
decided to take more direct action: They highlighted the member’s offense by leaving
him padlocked in a public place and marking him physically. Constraining and
marking him not only limited his contact with the community, it also allowed for
others to see him as they discussed the danger he presented to their community.
Community discussions arose about the danger posed by the offender and the need
for community members to avoid further contact with him and others like him.
After these steps, and others like them, failed, the community eventually killed the
Corresponding author: Rachel A. Smith; e-mail:
Communication Theory ISSN 1050-3293
462 Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association
offender. One might be surprised to learn that this sequence of events unfolded in
1992 in cyberspace, where cyber community leaders and community members brand
people who violate the community’s social norms through ‘‘toading’’ (Curtis, 1992).
Although stigmas appear throughout history, even in present-day virtual commu-
nities, an explanation of stigma communication has yet to be offered. This essay
attempts to do just that.
The rest of this manuscript is organized around the following thesis: Stigma
messages bear four attributes. They provide content cues (a) to distinguish people
and (b) to categorize these distinguished people as a separate social entity. In addi-
tion, stigma messages include content cues (c) to link this distinguished group to
physical and social peril, and (d) to imply a responsibility or blame on the part of the
stigmatized for their membership in the stigmatized group and their linked peril.
These content cues encourage the activation of stereotypes, induce affective reactions
(disgust, anger, and fear), and associated action tendencies, which all foster the
formation of stigma attitudes. If people hear such messages, then they may share
them with others in their groups because stigma messages provide for in-group
solidarity and differentiation from others. A graphical depiction of this thesis can
be seen in Figure 1. The rest of this essay elaborates on this thesis. The essay is
organized in the following manner. It addresses assumptions about a sociofunctional
framework of stigma communication, details the content of stigma communication,
and ends with how such communications are processed. The next section begins with
the assumptions behind this thesis.
As a theoretical construct, the term stigma is not without need for clarification.
One way to distinguish stigma from related terms (e.g., disgrace,stereotypes, and
taboo) is through its etymology. From its Greek roots, stigma refers to marks on the
skin made by a pointed object, or tattoo (Jones, 1987). Ancient Greeks learned the
technique from the Persians, and the ancients used to mark slaves, criminals, and
prisoners of war for punitive purposes, and so they could be identified if they tried
to escape (Jones, 1987). Although the initial connotation of intentionally scarring
Message Reactions
Cognitive Reactions
Access relevant
social attitudes and
Emotional Reactions
Message Choices
Group Labeling
Message Effects
Develop stigma
Isolate and remove
Share stigma
message with
Figure 1 Model of stigma communication.
R. A. Smith Understanding Stigma
Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association 463
people to signal their disgrace remained, the term stigma has come to encompass
marks, both seen and unseen, affixed by people or even the divine (such as being
born with the mark of the Devil). Within this essay, a stigma is defined as a simplified,
standardized image of the disgrace of certain people that is held in common by
a community at large. Stigma communication, then, is the messages spread through
communities to teach their members to recognize the disgraced (i.e., recognizing
stigmata) and to react accordingly. How stigma communication occurs in society,
however, has been less clearly defined.
Research originally explained stigma communication as determined by commu-
nity and individual characteristics. Because stigmas have been associated with so
many different characteristics, almost arbitrarily (Herek, 1999; Herek & Capitanio,
1998), some researchers (see Neuberg, Smith, & Asher, 2000) argue that stigmas are
culturally determined. Because stigmas can make the stigmatized seem less complex,
increase (the stigmatizers’) self-esteem and group-esteem, define and justify peoples’
status within a community, and validate stigmatizers’ world views (Blascovich,
Mendes, Hunter, & Lickel, 2000; Neuberg et al., 2000), they were seen as reflections
of personality traits (e.g., Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950).
Scholars have raised concerns about the assumption of both perspectives.
Cultural determinism, for example, cannot explain cross-cultural or historical con-
sistency in the communication of stigma, content of stigmas, and reactions to the
stigmatized (Neuberg et al., 2000). For example, reactions to physical deformities
appear across cultures (Douglas, 1966), early in development (Jones et al., 1984), and
across species (Hebb & Thompson, 1968; Wilson, 1975). Indeed, stigmatization is
not limited to humans. Chimpanzees rebuff other chimpanzees who violate norms of
reciprocity (de Waal, 1989), maintain distance from chimpanzees who have the lost
use of a limb due to polio (e.g., Goodall, 1986), and attack in-group chimpanzees
who exhibit physical markers of a communicable disease (e.g., Goodall, 1986).
A dispositional explanation for stigmas also has difficulty explaining that all
people stereotype as a normal result of cognitive abilities and limitations, social
information, and experiences (Dovidio, Major, & Crocker, 2000). Stigmas evolve
from stereotypes, defined as formulaic and simplified conceptions of a group and its
members (Ashmore & Del Boca, 1981). As with stereotypes in general, once learned,
stigmas should resist change, even when evidence fails to support them (Dailey,
1952). For example, people may allow exceptions for a person (e.g., he’s attractive
for a leper) without changing base belief (e.g., Brewer, 1988). Consequently, stigma
shares a common ground with prejudice, described as negative stereotypes (e.g.,
Allport, 1954; Devine, 1989) and discrimination, and those behaviors resulting from
prejudice (Crocker, Major, & Steele, 1998).
Functions of stigma
Another perspective, a sociofunctional perspective of stigma, is more promising.
Neuberg et al. (2000) argue through the sociofunctional perspective that stigmas
help protect group survival. The assumption is that living in groups helped humans
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464 Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association
survive: Humans evolved as interdependent, social creatures and protected them-
selves and their groups from threats to group living (Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005).
Variability in stigma, then, may stem from one fundamental principle: ‘‘People
will stigmatize those individuals whose characteristics and actions are seen as threat-
ening or hindering the effective functioning of their groups’’ (Neuberg et al., 2000,
p. 34). These characteristics and actions may indeed be taboo. For example, taking
group resources without replacement, competing for limited resources, interfering
with socialization to group norms, and endangering group members’ health and
reproduction all constitute group threats (see Neuberg et al., 2000).
Empirical studies show that group members who deviate from a group prototype
may be rejected simply because their low-prototypical nature threatens the integrity
of the group norms (e.g., Abrams, Marques, Bown, & Henson, 2000; Marques,
Abrams, & Sero
ˆdio, 2001). Called the black sheep effect, people disassociate from
and denigrate in-group members whose actions can reflect badly on the group (e.g.,
Lewis & Sherman, 2003; Marques & Paez, 1994). As group membership is utilized as
a source of self-definition (Tajfel & Turner, 1986), people consequently want to
maintain positive images of their groups (and its members), so they can see them-
selves in a positive light as well. In the reverse, people feel threatened when their
groups could be viewed negatively (Cohen & Garcia, 2005). Social threats may seem
to be less threatening or painful than ones that threaten one’s physical body. How-
ever, recent studies show that social pain (such as rejection, exclusion, and ostra-
cism) engages the same basic neural mechanisms that support the experience of
physical pain (in the dorsal region of the anterior cingulated cortex, Lieberman &
Eisenberger, 2006). Stigmas, in summary, function within a detection system for
threats to continued group survival.
Stigma attitudes, in addition, may serve important functions for the person
holding such attitudes. These functions can be divided into two groups: evaluative
and expressive. Some research suggests an evaluative explanation (called evaluative by
Herek, 1987), in which attitudes serve functions to help differentiate tangible rewards
and punishments. For example, when people like cleanliness and seek it, it can help
them avoid contamination. Consequently, some have argued that attitudes toward
a stigmatized group, people with HIV in the United States, may reflect fears of
contagion and concerns about infection (Bishop, Alva, Cantu, & Rittiman, 1991;
LePoire, 1994; Pryor, Reeder, Vinacco, & Kott, 1989; Schneider, Snyder-Joy, &
Hopper, 1993). On the other hand, stigma attitudes may serve an expressive
function—that is, expressing values and preserving one’s self-esteem (Herek &
Capitanio, 1998). If someone believes that HIV/AIDS represents immorality and
the engagement in sinful conduct, for example, then attitudes toward those living
with HIV serve to express one’s values (Jelen & Wilcox, 1992; Pryor et al., 1989).
Although the two functions may be different, they are not incompatible. Instead
of pitting the two explanations against each other, Herek (1986) argues that stigma
has both evaluative and expressive components. The component that carries more
weight in a person’s attitudes depends on the psychological function served by the
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stigma (Herek, 1986). The types of peril—moral or physical harm—used in stigma
messages would provide a stimulus to form, maintain, or reinforce attitudes serving
functions. Still, different functions may support the same intention. For example,
intentions to avoid people living with HIV have been found to be supported by
attitudes serving evaluative and expressive functions (Herek & Capitanio, 1998).
Although a sociofunctional perspective places importance on functional explan-
ations for human phenomena, it would be remiss to suggest that personality has no
impact. Some personality characteristics, such as trait anxiety and disgust sensitivity
(Haidt, McCauley, & Rozin, 1994), may predispose people to make stigmas more
salient. In addition, people with the most to lose if they are cheated may be the most
vigilant (Neuberg et al., 2000). Although valid, these additional variables do not
contradict a sociofunctional perspective, and this discussion of stigma communica-
tion will assume this perspective for its underlying framework.
Protecting groups
To ensure the group’s effective functioning, people diagnose threatening character-
istics or actions, mark people bearing the characteristics or exhibiting the actions,
and ensure that the discredited people are eliminated from future interaction. Thus,
stigma is a social construction (e.g., Brown, Macintyre, & Trujillo, 2003; Dovidio
et al., 2000) shared among members of a community seeking to protect itself.
Stigmas rely on communication, for example, to learn of offenders’ discrediting
marks and to enact devaluation of offenders. Stigmatization as a process involves
the (a) recognition of a person’s categorization into a group based on a distinguishing
characteristic, or mark, and (b) the subsequent devaluation of the marked person
(Brown et al., 2003; Dovidio et al., 2000).
In Goffman’s (1963) classic examination of stigma, he claims that people in
communities learn to recognize discrediting marks and react accordingly. A person
marked with a stigma ‘‘is thus reduced in our minds from a whole and usual person to
a tainted, discounted one .. We believe the person with a stigma is not quite human.
On this assumption we exercise varieties of discrimination, through which we effec-
tively, if often unthinkingly, reduce his life chances’’ (Goffman, 1963, pp. 3–5).
Assigning stigma, in a sense, is what people do to other people, but it also may be
seen as an element central to creating and preserving social order (Foucault, 1977;
Parker & Aggleton, 2003). To order society, stigmatization often results in the cre-
ation of laws that (a) identify marks (or stigmata), (b) socially isolate marked groups
into geographical locations, and (c) remove their rights and others’ obligations to
them. For example, the Ain legal provision in Nepal allowed police to find and to
remove people marked physically as lepers to the leprosaria outside of town (Hyland,
2000). Stigmas, therefore, may produce and reproduce relations of power and con-
trol, social inequity, and social exclusion (Parker & Aggleton, 2003). It ‘‘orders’’
society (Foucault, 1977).
To order their society, community members expose people associated with
group threats, mark them (often publicly), and limit their access to the community.
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466 Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association
Examples of such barriers include limiting stigmatized groups’ access to health care,
education, employment, and housing (Brown et al., 2003; Miller & Major, 2000).
These barriers can directly and indirectly lead to impaired physical health and even
death. As might be expected, raising the level of threat induces more hostile and
punitive actions (e.g., Gunn, 2004; Neuberg et al., 2000). For example, people legally
tarred and feathered cheaters and thieves (those who knowingly take from groups for
personal gain) in 18th century America (Neuberg et al., 2000). In more recent times,
community members have evicted and then set fire to the homes of stigmatized
people (Wiener, Battles, & Heilman, 2000), or killed them to ensure the community’s
safety and security (Gilbert, 2000).
In addition, stigmas are shared and therefore differ from personal preferences
(Dovidio et al., 2000). For example, someone may think that people who wear glasses
are nerds and dislike them; this sentiment represents a personal preference. For
glasses to serve as a stigmata, or a mark of a stigmatized group, a community would
need to share the belief that nerds wear glasses and that nerds are bad. Consequently,
they could then band together with other ‘‘normals’’ to exclude glass wearers from
social events. Sunwolf and Leets (2003) observed this process as they examined U.S.
adolescents dealing with their social groups excluding other teens. Whether they
were marked as members of a stigmatized group or not, teens held knowledge about
the stigmas and their impending consequences, including their own rejection if they
spoke up against their group’s exclusion of stigmatized teens (Sunwolf & Leets,
2003). The distinction between knowledge of group-supported stereotypes and per-
sonal beliefs, as well as common knowledge of expected behavior toward the stereo-
typed, also appears within research in prejudice (e.g., Devine, 1989). Stereotyped
beliefs ‘‘matter most when the same stereotypical beliefs are shared by many indi-
viduals’’ (Schaller, Conway, & Tanchuk, 2002, p. 862). This suggests that even if
people change their own stereotypes underlying stigmas or prejudice, they may not
behave differently toward the stereotyped group because of normative pressures
(Devine, 1989).
In summary, stigmas are social constructions serving social functions. In order to
protect effective group functioning, people associated with threats to group success
(such as resources, socialization, health, and reproduction) need to be marked and
labeled as a separate social entity. The description of the diagnosing attribute, the
stigmatized social entity, and its ever present and chosen danger to the community
needs to be communicated throughout the community. Community members need
to know of those that pose threats to their community if they are to limit the
stigmatized group’s access to group resources and future interaction. The next sec-
tion examines the components of this stigma communication.
Communicating stigma
Stigma communication needs to provide content that gains attention quickly,
encourages stereotyping and perceived entitativity of a stigmatized group, and
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provides reasons and emotional reactions for barring access of stigmatized groups
from society to protect the community. To these ends, stigma communication
includes four categories of content cues: (a) a mark for categorization in a stigmatized
group, (b) descriptions of the stigmatized group as a separate group entity, (c)
responsibility for placement in the stigmatized group and resulting group threat,
and (d) cues to danger the group and its members face and reminders for unmarked
members to protect themselves and to support collective efforts to eliminate the
threat. One reason why stigma messages are so powerful is that the features of stigma
messages—marks, group labels, responsibility, and peril—make attitudes accessible,
encourage attitude formation, and automatically predispose certain behavioral reac-
tions. These features, which build stigma attitudes, also make these attitudes more
important and tantalizing to share with others. The next section covers each com-
ponent in more detail.
Marking someone is a sociofunctional process, using cues that evoke automatic
reactions for quick recognition, learning potential, and suggested social response.
Marks, to this end, have two qualities: concealment (Deaux, Reid, Mizrahi, & Ethier,
1995; Frable, 1993; Jones et al., 1984) and disgust (Goffman, 1963; Jones et al., 1984).
Marks that are more easily visible are harder to conceal. The visibility may be due to
size, action, or other qualities such as disgust. For example, a physical tic of flapping
one’s hand up into the air and hitting one’s head, such as seen with Tourette’s
syndrome (e.g., Jankovic, 2001), would be harder to conceal than more subtle tics.
A mark that cannot be easily concealed also provides a greater opportunity to be
recognized, such as the required placement of yellow Stars of David on Jews in Nazi
Two experiments (Blascovich et al., 2000; Mendes & Blascovich, 1999) noted
reactions to stigmatized marks even at a biological level. When participants saw that
they would be talking with someone with a port-wine facial mark, they perceived the
situation as threatening and exhibited physical threat reactions. Specifically, they
showed an increase in sympathetic-adrenomedullary activity (SAM), resulting in
changes in blood pressure and other nervous systems. In the same experiment, when
participants anticipated an encounter with someone described the same way, but
who wore makeup to conceal the mark, participants showed similar SAM activity,
but they also showed an increase in epinephrine (Blascovich et al., 2000). The
epinephrine essentially counteracts the SAM activity, resulting in few additional
biological effects. As long as the mark can be concealed, the biological and affective
response seems controlled. In another study, participants were put in a position
where they themselves would be wearing makeup to represent the port-wine facial
mark. These participants exhibited the same physiological responses as those in the
role of observers in the previous study: SAM activity if they would wear the mark,
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468 Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association
SAM plus epinephrine if they could wear makeup overtop of it (Mendes & Blascovich,
1999). Anticipating communication involving someone bearing a mark seems to
impact both the biological reactions of marked and unmarked persons. Concealment
effectively allows for people to ‘‘pass’’ in general society (Goffman, 1963)—perhaps
as much internally as externally.
Disgust cues (Haidt et al., 1994) include contact with bodily substances like feces or
urine, violations of personal cleanliness, ingestion of inappropriate substances like
rats or severed fingers, cutting open the human body, contamination by unpalatable
objects or ideas, and so on. Marks that evoke disgust result in a tendency to avoid or
reject the marked target and to eventually remove it from one’s presence (Mackie &
Smith, 2002). Viewing disgusting marks has also been associated with moral evalua-
tions (Looy, 2004).
Marks may be affixed to people by placing a temporary or permanent (e.g.,
a brand) symbol on a target or by placing attention on attributes already attached
to the target. Affixing a visible, repulsive mark on a person, therefore, can evoke
disgust easily, resulting in increased attention to the person, and in avoidance or
removal of the person from further interaction. Some scholars, in talking about this
mark or categorizing attribute, discuss it as something inherent in a person, instead
of a tag or designation provided by others (Link & Phelan, 2001). This difference may
focus attention on discrimination against those with the stigma, instead of the
experience of the stigmatized person (Link & Phelan, 2001). Indeed, Goffman
(1963) described stigmatization as the devaluation of interpersonal and social rela-
tionships rather than as a static reaction to a fixed attribute (Parker & Aggleton,
2003). The attribute may even appear as a label used to reference the stigmatized
Group labels
Communities affix labels to stigmatized groups, and the label often includes the
mark or peril itself, such as lepers or deserters. The labeling process (a) brings
attention to the group’s stigma, (b) stresses that this is a separate social entity,
and (c) helps to differentiate the stigmatized group from the normals. Said differ-
ently, providing a group label enhances perceived entitativity for the stigmatized
group. Entitativity is the property that makes a group seem to be a coherent and
distinct entity—homogeneous and structured with boundaries and members who
share a common fate (Campbell, 1958; Hamilton & Sherman, 1996; Hogg & Reid,
2006). Labeling a group by its stigmatizing issue keeps the threat salient, which
encourages the stigmatized group’s separation from a community. It helps to accen-
tuate intergroup differences (cf. Tajfel, 1959). This process also leads to deperson-
alizing people from individuals to embodiments of a group’s attributes. The
categorization encourages the development of stereotypes and stereotype-consistent
interpretations of ambiguous behavior (Hogg & Reid, 2006).
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A ready example comes from discussing illnesses as conditions or labels (Link &
Phelan, 2001). One might say that a person has a cold or epilepsy. In other words,
one of us has been afflicted by an illness. In contrast, one might say that they saw one
of those epileptics in town today. The second statement denotes that the person is the
disease and a member of a separate group from the rest of society. This distinction
appears in self-references as well, such as in the statements ‘‘I am bipolar’’ versus
‘‘I have a bipolar condition.’’
Even certain pronoun usage can separate the stigmatized group from the rest of
the community, such as separating us from them (Devine, Plant, & Harrison, 1999;
Link & Phelan, 2001; Morone, 1997). The use of pronouns, we and they, also pro-
vides verbal cues about a target’s membership and the social distance between the
interactants: the readers, the speakers, and the targets. People can hold memberships
in multiple groups (e.g., Brewer, 1991). Their salient membership may vary at any
given time and using we or they provides salient cues for relevant social relations
(e.g., Brewer, 1991; Neuberg et al., 2000). The need to separate stigmatized groups
from oneself can be, moreover, heightened by perceptions of responsibility.
Responsibility is concerned with a perception of choice and control. People may
believe that members of a stigmatized group choose their stigmatized condition
(Jones et al., 1984), and these choices may result from a character flaw of immorality
(Goffman, 1963). For example, mental illness has been associated with possession by
demons; consequently, communities may treat insanity through exorcism and expul-
sion of the spirit or lost soul, but someone who chooses to interact with demons
simply receives death (Stockholder, 1994). Understanding responsibility is central to
stigma because communities punish more heavily those choosing immoral beliefs,
attitudes, or actions than those who act involuntarily. Dante reserved his final circle
of hell, after all, for those who chose to betray kin and country. Responsibility also
appears to challenge interventions (e.g., Batson et al., 1997), which evoke empathy
toward a member of a stigmatized group in order to reduce stigma; after people learn
of the member’s responsibility in joining the stigmatized group, empathy cannot
longer be evoked.
The issue of responsibility is all the more complicated by people’s different reactions
to positive and negative attributes. Attribution theory (Jones & Davis, 1965) suggests
that people assume that others remain consistent with their choices. If they choose to
hurt the group once, they are likely to do so again. Attribution bias concerns people’s
belief that others’ negative behaviors imply things about their character, whereas
others’ positive behaviors result from situational or outside forces (e.g., Jones &
Nisbett, 1971). Even attribution bias does not seem to extend to all negative behav-
iors but only to those that violate accepted norms of social morality (Trafimow,
Bromgard, Finlay, & Ketelaar, 2005).
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Responsibility also covers how much control the person has in eliminating the threat
(Deaux et al., 1995; Frable, 1993). In other words, even if someone did not choose
demonic possession, that person may have control over how much he or she fights
the possession and his or her harmful actions to the community. Goffman wrote
(1963) of triple stigmas with illnesses: (a) the illness’s biological manifestations (such
as abscesses), (b) the blemish of one’s character, and (c) the choice to associate with
groups already prone to infection or devalued within the community. One may also
suggest that people had the ability to control their exposure to a stigma-related
condition when they chose to associate with those in the stigmatized group. For
these reasons, a sense of responsibility can be a key feature of stigma messages.
Peril includes the content cues highlighting the danger that a stigmatized group
poses to the rest of the community (Deaux et al., 1995; Frable, 1993; Jones et al.,
1984). Much work has been done with the content of product warnings. Signal
words, hazard statements, hazard avoidance statements, and consequence statements
cue peril to the community (for a review, see DeTurck, 2002). These content cues are
useful to understanding cues in stigma communication—stigma appeals warn of
peril associated with people, instead of products. As with product warnings, stigma-
tized groups pose threats, implying that people must take individual and collective
action to avoid them.
A brochure on STD prevention (Berlex Laboratories, 1995) serves as an example
for these textual cues. Signal words are single words cuing a reader to danger (e.g.,
Danger! Warning!, DeTurck, 2002). The hazard statement clarifies what quality poses
a danger (e.g., young sex workers living in the city, DeTurck, 2002). The hazard
avoidance statement conveys specific recommendations; in the case of stigma mes-
sages, it is to avoid the person marked by the hazard statement (e.g., avoid contact
with people from Houston; DeTurck, 2002). Last, the consequences statement
explains what will happen if someone does not attend to the warning (e.g., Do this,
or you will feel guilty, ashamed, or dirty; DeTurck, 2002).
As with labeling, peril may appear in nonverbal codes. For example, when pro-
ducing movies or television shows, production decisions about music, sound effects,
lighting, and camera shots can make a character appear dangerous, such as someone
with mental illness being introduced with darker lighting and awkward camera shots
(Wilson, Nairn, Coverdale, & Panapa, 1999). Camera shots and sounds depict
threats to physical safety and evoke fear, prompting people to want to avoid those
who are similar to the television characters (Mackie & Smith, 2002).
In summary, stigma communication includes four types of content: marks,
group labels, responsibility, and peril. One may see such features in the research
on mental illness. The media characters with mental illnesses appear as irreversibly
strange, volatile, and socially isolated (e.g., Signorielli, 1989; Wahl, Wood, &
Richards, 2002; Wilson et al., 1999) in children’s television programming (e.g.,
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Gerbner, 1995; Wilson, Nairn, Coverdale, & Panapa, 2000), children’s films (e.g.,
Beveridge, 1996), and comic books (Wahl, 1995). In such shows, those characters
with mental illnesses fail their tasks (Gerbner, 1995), are shunned by other characters
(Beveridge, 1996), and are referred to as twisted and deranged (Wilson et al., 2000).
In comics, these characters appear with distinct and unattractive physical features
and behave in irrational and criminal ways (Wilson et al., 2000). In a review of
American cartoons from 1941 to 1990, Walter (2000) reported that not one character
with mental illness appeared in a positive light; instead they appeared as cruel,
amoral, and dangerous. This pervasive, frequently homogenous image should allow
for viewers, especially young ones, to learn negative beliefs about those with mental
illnesses, allowing for their stigmatization and social rejection (Wahl, 2003). The next
section explains how people process such stigma communication in greater detail.
Processing stigma messages
When social identities are salient, people may assess a situation in terms of group
benefits and harms, and this assessment may induce emotional and behavioral
reactions. Anyone bringing physical or moral contamination to a group would
threaten its well-being, and offenders would likely be isolated and removed (Cottrell
& Neuberg, 2005). For example, seeing a person interfere with group norms, such as
cooperation, would hinder a group’s ability to perform and motivate group mem-
bers to remove the offender (Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005). The images of obstacles and
barriers to desired outcomes, such as hindering group performance, may also evoke
anger, resulting in aggressive acts to destroy or remove the obstacle and regain access
to the desired outcome (Mackie & Smith, 2002).
Intergroup emotions theory (Devos, Silver, Mackie, & Smith, 2002; Mackie,
Devos, & Smith, 2000), image theory (Alexander, Brewer, & Herrmann, 1999; Brewer
& Alexander, 2002), and sociofunctional framework (Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005;
Neuberg et al., 2000) suggest that people experience a variety of discrete emotions
toward different groups. For example, people’s appraisals of intergroup competition,
power, and status evoke different emotions, images, and action tendencies according
to image theory (Alexander et al., 1999; Brewer & Alexander, 2002). Indeed, studies
show that different types of group threats evoke discrete emotions in a predicted
pattern: Perceptions of contamination (physical or moral) are associated with dis-
gust, obstacles evoke anger, and physical threats to safety suggest fear (Cottrell &
Neuberg, 2005). Fear, anger, and disgust are seen as basic emotions, shaped by
evolutionary pressures, pushing humans to respond automatically to reoccurring
problems for survival (Ekman, 1999; Lazarus, 1991). Scholars have argued, for
instance, that reoccurring emotions like shame help humans manage the complex-
ities of group living and social life because the emotion involves imagining other
people (Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005).
In tandem, disgust, fear, and anger motivate actions to remove a social threat,
and they also may encourage cognitive reactions. From research about fear appeals,
one finds that messages highlighting the danger and the likelihood of facing a threat
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472 Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association
motivate people to elaborate on these messages (e.g., Roser & Thompson, 1995).
Indeed, people report that it is more likely that they will read warnings if the hazard
has greater peril (DeTurck, 2002). Fear reactions often result in thinking more about
the threatening event, and this rumination makes attitudes more accessible (Roskos-
Ewoldsen, Yu, & Rhodes, 2004).
People with more accessible attitudes about an object, like a mark, are more
likely to orient toward it (e.g., Roskos-Ewoldsen & Fazio, 1992). Consequently,
they are more likely to attend to it, including attending to messages about it (e.g.,
Roskos-Ewoldsen & Fazio, 1992), and to spend more cognitive effort interpreting
such messages (Fabrigar, Priester, Petty, & Wegener, 1998; Wu & Shaffer, 1987).
Accessible attitudes also convey information that these messages are important
to process (Roskos-Ewoldsen, Bichsel, & Hoffman, 2002). Messages processed
more often, more completely, and more deeply have increased persuasive effects
(Roskos-Ewoldsen, Arpan-Ralstin, & St. Pierre, 2002). In advertisements this can
backfire; indeed, Nabi (1998) found that if issue-ads associate issues with disgust-
evoking images, then people change their attitudes to reject the disgust-associated
issue. The cognitive processing also networks the attitude more deeply into one’s
memory, making it even more accessible (see Roskos-Ewoldsen et al., 2002). Atti-
tudes that are more accessible are also more predictive of behavior (see Roskos-
Ewoldsen, 1997). All said, attitudes more accessible from memory are activated
more often and show more influence on behavior (see Roskos-Ewoldsen et al.,
Accessible attitudes may lead people to self-select situations that support specific,
attitude-congruent, subjective norms. Indeed, DeBono and Synder (1995) found that
once they made certain attitudes accessible, people selected to participate in situa-
tions with behavioral norms related to those accessible attitudes. Stigma messages,
then, should have great potential in the persuasive process when stigmata evoke
more disgust and cannot be easily concealed, when the stigmatized groups are
classified as rivals or as nonhumans, and when feelings of community peril are great.
The three emotions—disgust, fear, and anger—would allow greater access to rele-
vant stereotypes and social categories, and would encourage formed or activated
beliefs to become even more accessible attitudes. Finally, peoples’ affective reactions
to stigmata may provide information, specifically that it is important for them to
develop an attitude toward something that evokes such powerful emotions (Roskos-
Ewoldsen et al., 2002). In summary, the affective and cognitive reactions to the
content in stigma communication encourage specific action tendencies and the
entrainment of accessed information and formed stigma attitudes. These qualities
that facilitate the development of stigma attitudes also make them appealing to share
with others within the community.
Sharing stigma messages
Information about stigmas makes for good rumors. People decide to pass on rumors,
or stories told about others, that invoke emotions that are shared across listeners
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Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association 473
(Heath, Bell, & Sternberg, 2001). Consistent emotional reactions spur social bonding
and social interactions (Heath et al., 2001), and the emotions that are most likely to
be shared across people are fear, anger, or disgust (e.g., Ekman, 1982; Frijda, 1987;
Izard, 1977). Indeed, studies find that participants are more likely to pass on stories
that evoke disgust (Heath et al., 2001), especially if the disgusting part of the story
required a voluntary effort (Heath et al., 2001). Research has shown that shared
bonding has been found when group members share contempt for a violation of
social norms (Keltner & Haidt, 1999). One may notice that all three emotions—
disgust, fear, and anger—as well as perceptions of voluntary effort and violating
social norms, have been associated with stigma communication.
Rumors may be selected and retained in the social environment, regardless of
whether the information is true (Heath et al., 2001). Moreover, participants prefer to
pass along bad news rather than equally believable good news (Heath, 1996). Those
bringing salient, important, emotionally evoking, and socially bonding information
to the community, such as stigma messages, may find themselves with greater social
Providing information through social networks may make stigma messages even
more potent. Because people spend more time attending to negative novel or
extreme stimuli (Fiske, 1980), they work harder to explain them (Hilton & Slugoski,
1986). People look to others’ actions to find and to verify ‘‘correct choices’
(Festinger, 1957). Because the messages facilitate social bonding, they are also likely
to increase one’s involvement in remembering, disseminating, and complying with
the stigma message. For example, one study found that as U.S. parents reported more
discussions with each other about vaccine horror stories, local and national media
outlets provided these stories more airtime (McCormick, Bartholomew, Lewis,
Brown, & Hanson, 1997). The emotional feature critical for a rumor is for it to
evoke emotions consistently across people, which allows it to enhance social bonding
and to produce shared contempt toward the stigmatized person. To be effective,
stigma messages should be familiar, remembered, and salient to members of a com-
munity and used to guide social interactions with those in stigmatized groups. These
features are highlighted in the following quote:
Then someone broke the confidentiality and told a parent that Michael had
AIDS. That parent, of course, told all the others. This caused such panic and
hostility that we were forced to move out of the area. The risk is to Michael and
us, his family. Mob rule is dangerous .. We could well be driven out of our
home yet again. (Debbie speaking to the National AIDS Trust, UK, 2002;
Fredriksson & Kanabus, 2007, {6)
Thus far, reactions to stigma messages differ depending on whether recipients rec-
ognize that they do or do not fit the characterizations for those bearing the stigma.
That is, the distinction is between the stigmatized and ‘‘normal’’ group members.
The next sections highlight responses as they differ for those within the marked and
the unmarked.
Understanding Stigma R. A. Smith
474 Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association
Message effects
The marked
If people recognize themselves as having been categorized as members of a stigma-
tized group, they are likely to isolate themselves from the community. For example,
after the SARS outbreak, traveling through Asia became a cue for stigma categori-
zation. Those who had recently traveled in these countries isolated themselves, even
if they had no symptoms or even potential exposure to anyone with SARS (Person,
Sy, Holton, Govert, & Liang, 2004). Keeping these kinds of secrets is associated with
personal distress and loneliness for those in a stigmatized group and those associated
with them (Wiener et al., 2000). Indeed, expecting and fearing rejection due to
stigma is associated with more constricted social networks (Link, Cullen, Struening,
Shrout, & Dohrenwend, 1989), low self-esteem (Wright, Gonfrein, & Owens, 2000),
and strained conversations with potential stigmatizers (Farina, Allen, & Saul, 1968).
The stigmatized often employ similar coping strategies as those who face any
form of psychological challenges (for a review, see Dovidio et al., 2000). They com-
pensate, avoid anxiety ridden situations, and make social comparisons (Miller &
Major, 2000). For example, Hyland (2000) studied a community in Nepal in the
1980s and 1990s and found that most respondents feared contracting leprosy because
then they would endure nachune and chutyane, words that literally mean to not
touch in a ritual sense: to be separate, divided off, or set apart (Hyland, 2000). The
respondents feared that if they got leprosy and, more importantly, were recognized
by others as lepers, then they too would not be touched, would be ritually separated,
or would be outcast from the village. Both lepers and those unaffected by the disease
expected lepers to be isolated from the rest of society, and if they did not isolate
themselves, they could expect others to isolate them (Hyland, 2000).
Social avoidance or rejection can, of course, hinder peoples’ psychological and
physical health. Those anticipating ostracism experience increased stress and anxiety
(Cioffi, 2000). When people realize that they could be included in a stigmatized
group (e.g., they think they are HIV1), they engage in coping strategies such
as secrecy, denial, deception, and social withdrawal in order to avoid rejection
(Markowitz, 1998). They may avoid admitting or even considering their risk for
an event associated with shame or deviation from a moral code (Weinstein, 1988).
The fear of being found out by the community, fear of disgracing one’s self and
family, and the fear of mistreatment by health care workers are related indirectly
to health-seeking intentions (Smith & Morrison, 2006) and behaviors (Chandra,
Deepthivarma, & Manjula, 2003; Herek, 2002).
These behaviors resonate with the concept of fear control described in the
extended parallel process model (EPPM; Witte, 1992). The theory suggests that when
people fear an issue more than they feel capable of addressing it, then they control
their fear by denying the problem and berating the message’s source (e.g., Witte,
1992). Generally, EPPM has been studied with fear coming from physical threats, but
a recent study found that this model could extend to fear from social repercussions,
R. A. Smith Understanding Stigma
Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association 475
such as stigma. When people perceive a stigma, their fear provides a motivation to
act, and when their fear outweighs their ability to deal with the stigma, they engage in
activities to control their fear, whether the activities are recommended or not (Smith,
Ferrara, & Witte, 2007). Indeed, concerns about stigma are associated with reduc-
tions in testing and treatment-seeking behavior, disclosure of HIV status, the level of
social support solicited and received, personal identity or self-esteem, and the quality
of health care received (Chandra et al., 2003; Greene, Frey, & Derlega, 2002; Leary &
Schreindorfer, 1998).
In one extreme, stigmatization leads to social death and one may consider if
a person can return from it (Hubert, 2000). In Australia (Johnson, 1998) and France
(Jodelet, 1991), being removed from a mental institution was not enough to change
a community’s treatment of the stigmatized residents. As important as it is to explain
the effects of stigma communication for those marked within it, it is critical to
understand the effects for those who do not find themselves marked within it.
The unmarked
As Brewer (1997) notes, people gain advantages if they ‘‘selectively avoid, reject, or
eliminate other individuals whose behaviors are disruptive to group organization’’
(p. 57). Indeed, people stand or sit farther away from stigmatized persons (e.g.,
Mooney, Cohn, & Swift, 1992). If they do not maintain distance, their association
with stigmatized persons could cause the community to do them the courtesy of
extending them the stigma, too. Goffman (1963) appropriately labeled this social
reaction to those associated with stigmatized others as a courtesy stigma. With this in
mind, some researchers define stigmatization in terms of those directly marked and
those experiencing a courtesy stigma, such as AIDS stigma as ‘‘prejudice, discount-
ing, discrediting, and discrimination directed at people perceived to have AIDS or
HIV, their loved ones and associates, and the groups and communities with which
they are affiliated’’ (Herek & Capitanio, 1998, p. 232; see also Herek, 1990; Herek &
Glunt, 1988). Snyder, Omoto, and Crain (1999) noted that volunteers working with
people living with AIDS reported anticipating and experiencing AIDS-related stig-
matization from others (such as friends and family). The volunteers also reported
stress, psychological withdrawal, demoralization, less satisfaction, and burnout as
a result of their volunteer service (Snyder et al., 1999).
Contagion research has investigated the widespread belief that all sorts of prop-
erties (including personal characteristics and moral standing) can be permanently
transferred from one person to another through physical contact (e.g., Rozin,
Markwith, & McCauley, 1994). In one study (Rozin et al., 1994), participants were
asked if they would wear a sweater, sleep in a hotel bed, or drive a car previously used
by various people exhibiting a range of potential stigma factors: from no stigmas to
someone who had lost a leg in a car accident, someone living with HIV (because of
sexual encounters or blood transfusions), and someone serving out a murder con-
viction. As many people refused to wear the sweater, sleep in the bed, or drive the car
of a murderer as a person living with HIV (regardless of transmission route).
Understanding Stigma R. A. Smith
476 Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association
No differences appeared in preferences to make physical contact with things owned
by the man with one leg or the person with no marks. Stigma reactions concern more
than worries of contracting a contagious disease; they are also concerned with moral
standing. Indeed, the communicability of a trait has an impact on its chances of
becoming a shared stereotype (Schaller & Conway, 1999; Schaller et al., 2002).
Support for mandatory detection of a stigma, public disclosure of someone’s
membership in a stigmatized group, and quarantine of those bearing stigmas are,
subsequently, not uncommon (e.g., Herek & Capitanio, 1998). Such structural dis-
crimination, or accumulated institutional practices that disadvantage particular
social entities, may occur without individual prejudice or discrimination (Link &
Phelan, 2001). The barriers to participation constructed within a society create
a disabling environment (Fine & Asch, 1988). For example, a stigmatized illness
may receive less funding for finding treatments or cures, or providing support,
and those stigmatized illnesses may receive less adequate care (e.g., Lee, Chiu, Tsang,
Chui, & Kleinman, 2006). Treatment facilities for stigmatized illnesses often are
located outside of town, further isolating them from the community and limiting
their access to social support and possible acceptance (e.g., Link & Phelan, 2001).
In summary, stigma communication includes specific content—marks, labels,
responsibility, and peril—in order to induce affective and cognitive responses to
create stigma attitudes, to generate protective action tendencies, and to encourage
the sharing of these messages with others. Stigma messages bear the following attrib-
utes: they provide cues (a) to distinguish people, (b) to categorize distinguished
people as a separate social entity, (c) to imply a responsibility for receiving placement
within this distinguished group and their associated peril, and (d) to link this
distinguished group to physical and social peril. Different qualities of stigma mes-
sages evoke different emotions (disgust, fear, and anger) that motivate people to
access relevant social attitudes, form or bolster stigma attitudes, and to remove the
stigmatized threat. Stigma attitudes encourage the sharing of stigma messages with
others in a network, which may, subsequently, institutionalize discriminatory behav-
ior at the community level. Stigma messages, therefore, relate and facilitate the
processes of social categorization, stereotyping, rejection of the stigmatized (and
bonding within the normals), and discrimination (Link & Phelan, 2001). As this
essay comes to a close, a few final thoughts are considered.
Final thoughts
A recent exploratory study found that cues to marks, groups, responsibility, and peril
did in fact appear together in media depictions of health issues. The study (Smith,
2007) found that certain health issues, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, and STDs,
appeared with more stigma-related content cues (marks, labels, responsibility, and
peril) in comparison to other issues, such as heart disease and cancer. It is possible
that some issues, such as communicable diseases, lend themselves to stigma com-
munication and stigmatization. A second study evaluated newspaper coverage of
R. A. Smith Understanding Stigma
Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association 477
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and found that evacuees from Hurricane Katrina were
described with stigma-related content cues, whereas those fleeing Hurricane Rita
were not (Smith, Han, & Miller, 2006). Given the discussion about stigmatized
messages, is there a way to share information about community concerns without
using stigma communication? It seems that this answer, intuitively, should be yes.
When all is said, theoretical developments in antistigma efforts and alternative
strategies for presenting community threats should be encouraged.
Goffman (1963) understood this need when he emphasized the importance of
investigating stigma in terms of relationships rather than individual attributes, plac-
ing the discussion firmly in the bailiwick of normative influences in communication.
Understanding the normative influences of stigma and finding alternative ways to
construct messages has practical import in areas such as health communication.
Indeed, many health agencies within the past 6 years have argued that stigma is
the leading impediment to health promotion, treatment, and support (e.g., U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, 1999; World Health Organization,
2001), but stigma is the least understood barrier of all (e.g., UNAIDS, 2004). This
essay presents a preliminary discussion of these issues, with the hope that theories of
normative influences that effectively explain prosocial promotion also investigate
antisocial prohibition.
I extend my thanks to Dr. Francxois Cooren, Dr. Itzhak Yanovitzky, and three
anonymous reviewers for their guidance and support.
1 To understand this term, one needs to know that the offender’s appearance in cyber-
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Communication Theory 17 (2007) 462–485 ª2007 International Communication Association 485
Understanding Stigma 1
Le langage des perdus : une explication de la communication des stigmates
Rachel A. Smith
Pennsylvania State University
Bien que les stigmates apparaissent tout au long de l’histoire, même dans les
communautés virtuelles actuelles, une explication de la communication des stigmates se fait
toujours attendre ; cet article tente d’en offrir une. Cet article soumet que la communication des
stigmates inclut des contenus spécifiques : des marques, des étiquettes, une responsabilité et un
péril, afin d’induire des réactions affectives et cognitives pour créer des attitudes stigmatisantes,
pour générer des tendances à l’action protectrice et pour encourager le partage de ces messages
avec les autres. Les messages stigmatisants comportent les caractéristiques suivantes : ils
fournissent des signaux servant (a) à distinguer les gens, (b) à catégoriser les gens discriminés
dans une entité sociale séparée, (c) à insinuer une responsabilité dans le fait d’être associé à ce
groupe discriminé et au péril qui y est associé et (d) à lier ce groupe discriminé à un péril
physique et social. De plus, des caractéristiques différentes des messages stigmatisants évoquent
des émotions différentes (dégoût, peur et colère) qui poussent les gens à atteindre les attitudes
sociales pertinentes, à former ou appuyer des attitudes stigmatisantes et à retirer la menace
stigmatisée. Les attitudes stigmatisantes encouragent le partage des messages stigmatisants avec
les autres au sein d’un réseau, ce qui peut, par la suite, contribuer à la création d’un lien entre les
membres d’un groupe.
Understanding Stigma 1
Die Sprache der Verlorenen: Eine Erklärung zur
Rachel A. Smith
Pennsylvania State University
Auch wenn Stigma geschichtlich betrachtet schon lang präsent ist - sogar in heutigen virtuellen
Gemeinschaften -, bedarf es immer noch einer Erklärung der Stigmakommunikation; dieser
Artikel versucht genau das. Der Artikel argumentiert, dass Stigmakommunikation spezifische
Inhalte einschließt: Merkmale, Labels, Verantwortlichkeiten und Gefahren, um eine affektive
und kognitive Reaktion zur Herstellung von Stigmaeinstellungen zu erzeugen, um
Schutzhandlungstendenzen zu generieren und um verstärken, dass diese Botschaften mit anderen
ausgetauscht werden. Stigmabotschaften haben folgende Merkmale: sie liefern Anhaltspunkte
um (a) Menschen zu unterscheiden, (b) diese besonderen Menschen als eine separate soziale
Entität zu kategorisieren, (c) Verantwortung zu unterstellen, einen Platz in dieser besonderen
Gruppe mit den einhergehenden Gefahren zu erhalten und (d) diese besondere Gruppe mit
physischen und sozialen Gefahren zu verknüpfen. Verschiedene Qualitäten von
Stigmabotschaften rufen außerdem verschiedene Emotionen (Empörung, Angst und Wut) hervor,
welche wiederum Menschen dazu motivieren, relevante soziale Einstellungen zu aktivieren,
Stigmaeinstellungen zu formen oder zu verstärken, und die stigmatisierte Gefahr zu entfernen.
Stigmaeinstellungen fördern den Austausch von Stigmabotschaften mit anderen in einem
Netzwerk, welches wiederum Gruppenmitglieder binden kann.
El Lenguaje de lo Perdido: Una Explicación de la Comunicación
Rachel A. Smith
Pennsylvania State University
Aunque los estigmas aparecen a lo largo de la historia, y aún hoy en las comunidades
virtuales, una explicación de la comunicación estigmática tiene que ser ofrecida todavía;
este ensayo intenta hacer eso justamente. Este ensayo sostiene que la comunicación
estigmática incluye contenidos específicos: marcas, etiquetas, responsabilidad, y riesgo, a
fin de inducir respuestas afectivas y cognitivas para crear actitudes estigmáticas, generar
tendencias de acción protectora, y estimular el intercambio de mensajes con los otros.
Los mensajes estigmáticos conllevan los atributos siguientes: ellos proveen de claves (a)
para distinguir personas, (b) para categorizar a las personas distinguidas como una
entidad social separada, (c) para insinuar una responsabilidad por recibir una colocación
dentro del grupo distinguido y su riesgo asociado, y (d) para vincular este grupo
distinguido con el riesgo físico y social. Las diferentes cualidades de los mensajes
estigmáticos, además, evocan emociones diferentes (de disgusto, miedo, y rabia) que
motivan a la gente a acceder a las actitudes sociales relevantes, a formar ó reforzar las
actitudes estigmáticas, y a eliminar la amenaza estigmática. Las actitudes estigmáticas
fomentan el intercambio de mensajes estigmáticos con otros en una red, lo cual puede,
posteriormente, unir a los miembros de un grupo.
Rachel A. Smith
상실의 언어: 스티그마 커뮤니케이션의 설명
Rachel A. Smith
Pennsylvania State University
비록 스티그마 (stigma)들은 역사적으로, 그리고 현재의 가상 커뮤니티등에서도
나타나지만, 스티그마 커뮤니케이션에 대한 설명은 아직 제대로 논의되지 않고 있으며,
연구는 이를 논의하기 위한 것이다. 논문은 스티그마 커뮤니케이션이 특정한 내용,
예들들면, 표지, 상표, 책임, 그리고 위험 등을 포함한다는 것을 강조하고 있는데, 이는
스티그마 태도를 만들기 위해, 보호적인 행위 경향을 창출하기 위해, 그리고 이러한
메시지들을 다른 사람들과 공유하는 것을 격려하기 위하여 감정적이고 인지적인
반응들을 추론하기 위한 것이다. 스티그마 메시지들은 다음의 특성들을 가지고 있다:
그들은 (a) 사람들을 구별하기 위해, (b) 차별화된 사람들을 분리된 사회적 실체로
정형화하기 위해, (c) 이러한 차별화된 집단과 그들과 연계된 위험내에서 책임감을
함의하기 위해, 그리고 (d) 이러한 차별화된 집단을 심리적 그리고 사회적 위험에
연계시키기 위한 근거들을 제공한다. 더우기, 스티그마 메시지들의 다른 성향들은 다양한
감정들(불쾌감, 두려움, 그리고 ) 불러 일으키는바, 이는 사람들을 관련된 사회적
태도에 접근하도록 하고, 스티그마 태도들을 형성하거나 지지하고, 그리고 스티그마화된
위협을 제거하기 위한 동기를 부여하기 위한 것이다. 스티그마 태도들은 네트웍내에서
다른 사람들과 스티그마 메시지들의 공유를 격려하는바, 이는 결론적으로 집단
구성원들의 결합을 이끌어 있는 것이다.
... Current research in the field of communication has consistently recognized the negative impact of stigma on individuals and communities, especially in healthrelated contexts (O'Shay-Wallace, 2020; Smith & Applegate, 2018;Underhill, Ledford, & Adams, 2019;Zhu, Smith, & Parrott, 2017). The model of stigma communication proposed by Smith (2007) asserts that stigmas are social constructions communicated among community members as a label for those perceived as a threat to the community at large. To that end, stigma communication "provides reasons and emotional reactions for barring access of stigmatized groups from society" (Smith, 2007, p. 468). ...
... Relatedly, (4) the benefits of some promoted health behaviors did not always outweigh the risks associated with being undocumented and Latinx/Hispanic. Adjacent to these conclusions, our findings also support assertions from the model of stigma communication (Smith, 2007) and stigma's effects on members of the stigmatized group. In Theme 1, participants voiced the alienating effect of certain group labels, consistent with previous evidence that labeling in stigma communication encourages separation from a community (Smith, 2007). ...
... Adjacent to these conclusions, our findings also support assertions from the model of stigma communication (Smith, 2007) and stigma's effects on members of the stigmatized group. In Theme 1, participants voiced the alienating effect of certain group labels, consistent with previous evidence that labeling in stigma communication encourages separation from a community (Smith, 2007). The overlapping stigmas present in Theme 2 seem to support Smith's (2007) observation that stigma communication can be strongly tied to marks that are more easily visible, especially because citizenship is one that cannot be determined by physical attributes. ...
... On the one hand, the production of retraction notices involves the provision of discrediting messages that can invoke retraction stigma. In the light of the model of stigma communication proposed by Smith (2007), retraction notices as stigmatizing messages may contain content cues regarding marks, labels, responsibility, and peril of retraction. Journal authorities as gatekeepers of academic integrity may deploy multiple types of content cues for the dual purpose of correcting the literature (e.g., through cues of responsibility for retraction) and deterring potential offenders (e.g., through cues of peril). ...
... In other words, retraction stigma would be context-specific and vary by the severity of reasons for retraction. Second, origin/etiology (i.e., responsibility) is one of the essential elements of both stigma (Bresnahan and Zhuang 2010;Jones et al. 1984) and stigma communication (Smith 2007), as attested to by many empirical studies (e.g., Bresnahan et al. 2013;Major et al. 2018). Third, the scientific community has increasingly recognized the need for various forms of academic misconduct to be handled differentially (Hall and Martin 2019;Martin 2016; Yeo-Teh and Tang in press). ...
Full-text available
Retraction of published research is laudable as a post-publication self-correction of science but undesirable as an indicator of grave violations of research and publication ethics. Given its various adverse consequences, retraction has a stigmatizing effect both in and beyond the academic community. However, little theoretical attention has been paid to the stigmatizing nature of retraction. Drawing on stigma theories and informed by research on retraction, we advance a conceptualization of retraction as stigma. We define retraction stigma as a discrediting evaluation of the professional competence and academic ethics of the entities held accountable for retraction. Accordingly, we identify seven core dimensions of retraction stigma, consider its functional justifications at both social and psychological levels, and distinguish its various targets and stakeholders. In view of the central role of retraction notices, we also discuss how retraction stigma is communicated via retraction notices and how authors of retraction notices may exercise their retraction stigma power and manipulate the stigmatizing force of retraction notices. We conclude by recommending retraction stigma as a theoretical framework for future research on retraction and pointing out several directions that this research can take.
... Building upon this food justice work and the stigma communication literature (e.g. Blithe et al., 2019;Meisenbach, 2010;Smith, 2007), this paper offers a more comprehensive cross-cutting theory of the state. In the absence of broader political theorizing, food activism may remain piecemeal and localized, with little impact on broader hunger and food insecurity rates. ...
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Drawing on three strains of critical theory – Foucauldian biopolitics, critical race theory, and the work of sociologist Loic Wacquant – I argue that neoliberal stigma is foundational to the design of the food (assistance) system. Neoliberal stigma is constituted in the discursive practices of shame, suspicion, and surveillance, which are communicative and carceral technologies used to discipline poor and racialized communities in their efforts to manage hunger and poverty. These communicative technologies are rooted in anti-poor, racist, and carceral logics and are deployed against Black and Brown bodies negatively impacting health and social wellbeing. Drawing on the voices of people with lived experiences of hunger, I demonstrate the mundane and exceptional ways in which shame, suspicion, and surveillance emerge in discursive practices surrounding food assistance and how these practices enjoin food assistance and carcerality into a ‘single organizational contraption.’ The analysis ends with three broad interventions required to disrupt neoliberal stigma amid racist violence.
... Language can be powerful, as it has the ability to reinforce social stigma, or reduce it. 8 It is my aim to use only affirming language that does not imply that cisgender-when one's sex assigned at birth accurately reflects one's identity-is the "norm." Examples of affirming language include the phrase "gender-affirming surgery," the affirming evolution of the title "sex reassignment surgery." ...
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Transgender and gender-expansive youth face a multitude of challenges when presenting as their authentic selves. Navigating their families, schools, and communities can be harrowing. Parents play a crucial role in supporting these youth during their gender journey. As the parent of a gender-expansive child, I learned that supporting this population requires a willingness to advocate for change, as simply affirming my child’s identity was not enough to ensure her safety at school and in other environments. This analytic autoethnographic inquiry articulates my experience and personal and professional growth as a parent and advocate for transgender and gender-expansive youth. In alignment with analytic autoethnographic methodology, data include artifacts (i.e., images, field journal entries and personal notes, and other documents), and interview transcripts with persons who are part of my, and my daughter’s, journey. Per the autoethnographic tradition, the results of this study are shared in a storied format. The aim of this piece is to normalize the experience of families of transgender and gender-expansive youth and encourage caregivers and loved ones to pursue positive social change for this population.
The term cult has been variously applied to contemporary groups and organizations, marking them as unusual or frightening. Scholarly literature has yet to settle on a concrete conceptualization of cults and reveals little about the communicative processes by which the stigmatizing name becomes attached to certain groups. This study utilizes a constant comparison method to assess qualities associated with groups regularly labeled as cults in the popular press. Results establish a typology of qualities associated with a “cult genre” of speech and illuminate the role of popular narrative in socially constructing stigma.
To understand how stigmatization of people diagnosed with a mental disorder occurs in secondary mental healthcare staff in mental healthcare centers in Chile was the objective of the study. A descriptive qualitative and interpretative design with an ethnographic approach was used. Participants' observations, ethnographic, and semi‐structured interviews were conducted with professionals at three secondary mental health centers. Qualitative descriptive and interpretative content analysis was used. Stigmatization of users is shaping up in their trajectory in the health center. Identity changes from person to “patient,” which generates dependence on the expert role of healthcare professionals. Stigma is expressed in the interactions between a health institution, a professional team, and a user, reproducing power and control relationships associated with the biomedical model and reinforcing a cycle of chronification in the user. Health teams are stressed by discrepancies between the current mental health policy and the user's biomedical understanding.
Background: During the pandemic, there has been significant social media attention focused on the increased COVID-19 risks and impacts for people with dementia and their care partners. However, these messages can perpetuate misconceptions, false information, and stigma. Objective: This study used Twitter data to understand stigma against people with dementia propagated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: We collected 1,743 stigma related tweets using the GetOldTweets application in Python from February 15 to September 7, 2020. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the tweets. Results: Based on our analysis, four main themes were identified: ageism and devaluing the lives of people with dementia; misinformation and false beliefs about dementia and COVID-19; dementia used as an insult for political ridicule; and challenging stigma against dementia. Social media has been used to spread stigma, but it can also be used to challenge negative beliefs, stereotypes, and false information. Conclusions: Dementia education and awareness campaigns are urgently needed on social media to address COVID-19 related stigma. When stigmatizing discourse on dementia is widely shared and consumed amongst the public, it has public health implications. How we talk about dementia shapes how policymakers, clinicians, and the public value the lives of people with dementia. Stigma perpetuates misinformation, pejorative language, and patronizing attitudes that can lead to discriminatory actions such as the limited provision of lifesaving supports and health services for people with dementia during the pandemic. COVID-19 policies and public health messages should focus on precautions and preventive measures rather than labeling specific population groups. Clinicaltrial: Not applicable.
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In this research, we seek to provide effective message strategies to communicate stigma associated health issues such as the human papillomavirus (HPV), by exploring the roles of humor, STD information, and objective HPV knowledge. Conducted with a 2 (Humor: no vs. yes) x 2 (STD information: no vs. yes) between-subjects experiment with objective HPV knowledge as a measured moderator, findings suggested that for the lower HPV knowledge subjects, the humor ads produced higher attention to the ad, more favorable ad attitudes (Aad), and greater behavioral intention to seek HPV prevention and treatment than the no-humor ads when there is no STD information. However, when STD information was present, for the lower HPV knowledge individuals, the no-humor ads produced greater attention and more positive Aad than the humor ads. Humor and STD information in the ads did not affect higher HPV knowledge individuals. Implications for theory as well as practice are discussed.
We conducted the largest multiple-iteration retelling study to date (12,840 participants and 19,086 retellings) with two different studies that test how emotional appraisals are transmitted across retellings. We use a novel Bayesian model that tracks changes across retellings. Study 1 examines the preservation of appraisals of happy and sad stories and finds that retellings preserve the story's degree of happiness and sadness even when length shrinks and aspects of story coherence and rationalisation deteriorate. Study 2 compared the transmission of appraisals of happiness and sadness with embarrassment, disgust, and risk. Appraisals of happiness, sadness, and also embarrassment showed high appraisal preservation, while disgust and risk were not well preserved. We conclude that participants in our studies encoded happy and sad stories by encapsulating the events and details into an overall emotional appraisal of the story and that this processing strategy might also apply to stories involving other emotions like embarrassment. The emotional appraisal played a key role in retelling by helping to guide the selection, invention, and ordering of the story elements. Hence, we posit that emotion appraisals can operate as anchors for remembering and retelling stories, thus playing an important role in narrative communication.
It is hypothesized that traits that are most likely to be the subject of social discourse (i.e., most communicable) are most likely to persist in ethnic stereotypes over time and that this effect is moderated by the extent to which an ethnic group is the subject of social discourse. Study 1 yielded communicability ratings of 76 traits. Study 2 tested the relation between a trait's communicability and its presence in stereotypes of 4 Canadian ethnic groups. Study 3 tested the relation between a trait's communicability and its persistence over time in stereotypes of 8 American ethnic groups. Results supported the hypotheses. A communication-based analysis of stereotypes appears helpful in predicting persistence and change in the contents of stereotypes of real groups in the real world.
This article explores how much memes like urban legends succeed on the basis of informational selection (i.e., truth or a moral lesson) and emotional selection (i.e., the ability to evoke emotions like anger, fear, or disgust). The article focuses on disgust because its elicitors have been precisely described. In Study 1, with controls for informational factors like truth, people were more willing to pass along stories that elicited stronger disgust. Study 2 randomly sampled legends and created versions that varied in disgust; people preferred to pass along versions that produced the highest level of disgust. Study 3 coded legends for specific story motifs that produce disgust (e.g., ingestion of a contaminated substance) and found that legends that contained more disgust motifs were distributed more widely on urban legend Web sites. The conclusion discusses implications of emotional selection for the social marketplace of ideas.
For a number of reasons, communication scholars have neglected the attitude construct. However, recent research on the cognitive basis of attitudes has thrived. This research suggests that the abandonment of the attitude construct may be premature. A complete understanding of how persuasive messages are processed and the effectiveness of attempts at social influence necessitates a reconsideration of the utility of attitudes. This chapter reviews research on an important aspect of the construct: attitude accessibility. Attitudes that are highly accessible from memory are likely to influence the allocation of attention and the degree of message elaboration, result in selective information processing, and influence behavior. Mechanisms by which persuasive messages may make attitudes accessible are discussed, and a model of the transactive relationship between persuasion and attitude accessibility is proposed.