Member News

Announcements and Updates

Recent news and information about opportunities for members such as Calls for Proposals/Papers (CFPs), job announcements, and other updates are posted here.

If you have a call, job announcement, or other news or discussion item you would like to share, please send it to ialsp.exec@gmail.com.

The impact of the pandemic on understanding accented English

(by Ann Rogerson, IALSP Regional Representative, September 2021)

Prior to the COVID-19, social interactions and circumstances such travel and education exposed many of us to a variety of voices and accents not normally used to in our home environment. Higher education institutions are just one place where individuals have opportunities to interact with students and teachers from different countries and regions. Communications experiences in classes and lectures can use social connections to learn, interpret and understand different uses of tones, phrasing, expression and vocabulary. A quick chat with a fellow student in class, or friends after class can assist us in understanding things that may initially sound incomprehensible due to an accented form of English that over time becomes more familiar. However, with the shift to remote and online learning due to COVID-19 many of these opportunities to clarify accented terminology and content have been missing in synchronous or asynchronous classes. Captioning can provide direct translation of speech (sometimes with errors) yet lack the personal and immediate interpretation that is possible when we are in the same room on campus. This can lead to misunderstanding and frustration and contribute to an increase in issues associated with understanding accented English in teaching contexts.

In my role as an Associate Dean of Education, I am brought into conversations when individuals have difficulty in understanding an accented version of English – students not fully understanding teachers and teachers not fully understanding students. My doctoral thesis discussed this issue in workplace contexts using communication accommodation theory (CAT) as the lens. It was apparent that accented English can often be as difficult to understand as another language, dependent upon the accents that you have been exposed to or are familiar with. It is difficult to determine whether the perceived increase in issues understanding accented English are due to the loss of social interactions and face-to-face conversation in person and on campus. It could also be influenced by our selections on streaming platforms such as Netflix where accent exposure is governed by what we view. The long-term effects of remote learning necessitated by the global pandemic will not be clear for many years to come but does present some new intergroup situations to explore with communication accommodation theory.

Intergroup communication during a pandemic: Reflections on Australia

(by Liz Jones, IALSP President, August 2021)

When thinking about the topic of my blog post, part of me was screaming “NO!!!!!! Don’t talk about covid, anything but covid” but another part said “This is a topic you’ve been thinking about a lot for the past 18 months”. I’m also aware that while many people have been unable to travel during the pandemic, I have experienced the pandemic while living in 2 quite different countries, Australia and Malaysia. And as an intergroup communication scholar I have been fascinated how the intergroup dynamics have played out in these 2 countries. But today I will focus only on Australia, because here I can speak as an insider, a participant observer, about a country where I have lived for many years and where I am a dual Australian-NZ citizen.

Much of my intergroup communication research has been informed by communication accommodation theory (CAT). This has been a useful lens to understand what has happened in Australia over the last 18 months, as CAT considers the role of the sociohistorical context and the initial orientation of individuals in shaping their behaviour and perceptions and attributions within interactions, and their evaluations of interactions.

Australia, unsurprisingly, began with the intergroup issue consistent with the history of intergroup relations in our country- there were quickly reports of people calling COVID the Chinese virus, and stories of stigmatisation of or discrimination against Asian people from many different countries, not just China (many Australians have never been good at differentiating between people from the many different Asian countries who live in Australia). Consistent with other countries, there was also some stigmatisation of health professionals.

But 18 months later what has become the key intergroup conflict is between states. Australia has 6 states and 2 territories. In pre-covid times the intergroup relations between these states and territories were normally harmonious. There were the normal Australian-style derogatory names for people from other states- people in NSW might call those in the southern state of Victoria ‘Mexicans’, and those to the north in Queensland ‘bogans’*, and the Queenslanders in return called those from NSW ‘cockroaches’. But, apart from the intense rivalry of the annual rugby league State of Origin games between NSW and Queensland, relations were general harmonious, with more intergroup rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney than between states.

However, each state, of course, has its own government, and laws and states are responsible for much of the delivery of health services in Australia. Thus, states have had a key role in managing the response to the pandemic, during a period of high uncertainty and threat, which we know heightens intergroup relations. And what has unfolded over the ensuing 18 months has been a state-based response to the pandemic, including for the 1st time frequent border closures or restrictions on people moving between states, creating a very particular sociohistorical context.

What has that meant for intergroup relations? Clear evidence of people’s identification with their state increasing, with the word “we” referring to a state not a country, and more frequent derogation of people from other states (particularly between the leaders of the different states). There has been talk of ‘a wall’ and ‘a ring of steel’ (although most famous is the Prime Minister stating vaccination is ‘not a race”). The success of this strategy? Polls have shown very strong support for state governments (until the recent widespread outbreak of covid in NSW) and state elections have seen the governments returned with wider margins, particularly for the state that had the strongest rhetoric and border closures. And it has been a wonderful time for comedians and cartoonists- for those looking for some Australian covid humour see Jimmy Rees’ “Meanwhile in Australia” series on Facebook, or The Shovel or Betoota Advocate. Many friends state this is how they now get their news.

Of course, derogation of particular ethnic groups has not disappeared and instead continues to also be a key intergroup context. Thus, people’s ethnicity is blamed for the spread of covid-19 in particular geographic areas, rather than an acknowledgement of structural factors such as the types of employment (insecure and essential services, requiring people to go out to work), the overcrowded housing in large apartment blocks associated with lower incomes, and the lack of public health information and processes that is adapted for those who are culturally and linguistically diverse. Most recently, a funeral attended by 150 (reported to be 500) mostly indigenous people in western NSW was labelled “illegal” and the attendees “selfish” and likened to an illegal gathering of 50 people in the affluent east of Sydney during a lockdown, despite the funeral adhering to all covid restrictions.

Thus, while the pandemic has been a time of much stress, uncertainty, and exhaustion for us all, it has also provided an opportunity to see how our theories of intergroup communication provide a lens for understanding the complex and quickly changing intergroup dynamics that occur in the context of a global pandemic.

* Bogan (/ ˈboʊɡən / BOHG-ən) is Australian and New Zealand slang for a person whose speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour are considered unrefined or unsophisticated. Depending on the context, the term can be pejorative or self-deprecating.

Savoring in a Pandemic

(by Maggie Pitts, IALSP Immediate Past President, July 2021)

When I began exploring the language and communication features of savoring in 2014, I was hoping to make a contribution to the positive communication movement. It struck me that people recognize, value, and endeavor to cultivate meaningful moments of connectivity through everyday types of talk. And then, they delight in those moments. As a positive psychology construct, savoring refers to one’s capacity “to attend to, appreciate, and enhance the positive experiences in their lives” (Bryant & Veroff, 2007, p. 2). But, as a language and communication construct, I felt that savoring offered something even deeper than attending to positive experiences. Indeed, my international and interdisciplinary involvement with IALSP has shown me that across languages and cultures people savor differently and savor a greater breadth of human experiences than just the joyful, often hedonic, pleasures. Humans can, and do, savor deep and meaningful moments that encompass emotions and experiences greater than pleasure. We savor the bittersweet. We savor grief. We do so to keep meaningful moments and people close to our hearts – all of them. This has never been more evident than now, as we continue to live with uncertainties, trauma, and profound human loss due to COVID. While we are striving to make sense of loss and grief, there are many who have also experienced a newfound gratitude and appreciation for the small moments that matter greatly. Living within the pandemic reminds us that we can, and should, look for joyful moments to savor, but also embrace and deepen our experience with the more difficult, but also meaningful moments that mark our lives. For, when we savor, we are wholly present in a moment, bearing full witness to our human experiences. Savoring also connects us to humanity to the extent that we have and experience these moments together and also talk about them and reminisce. We need that connection now.

Bryant, F. B., & Veroff, J. (2007). Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Jiao, J., Kim, S., & Pitts, M. J. (online first, 2021). Promoting subjective well-being through communication savoring. Communication Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1080/01463373.2021.1901758

Pitts, M. J. (2019). The language and social psychology of savoring: Advancing the communication savoring model. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 38, 237-259. https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X18821404

Pitts, M. J., Kim, S., Meyerhoffer, H., & Jiao, J. (2019). Savoring as positive communication (Chapter 11). In J. A. M. Velázquez & C. Pulido (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of positive communication: Contributions of an emerging community of research on communication for happiness and social change (pp. 98-107). New York, NY: Routledge.


Natural Language Processing of Bias

(by Katie Collins, IALSP North America Regional Representative, June 2021)

People often unintentionally choose words that reveal their implicit beliefs. These subtle and systematic asymmetries in language use, or linguistic biases, reveal our expectancies for the behaviour of different groups. The same behaviour, for example, will be described in inadvertently different ways depending on who performs it – thus our ideas about age, ethnicity, or any other aspect of a person that can form the basis of a stereotype, are reflected in the language we use to describe behaviour. Linguistic bias is widespread and found in contexts ranging from simple conversations to courtrooms, suggesting that it may be responsible for how stereotypes become shared.

Given this, linguistic bias is directly applicable to current socio-cultural issues. We are now in a time where social media reporting, comment section debates, and accusations of "fake news" are commonplace. This means there is a wealth of freely available data from online sources (e.g. social media, forums, comment sections), which could be used to examine the use of linguistic bias in real world online communication. At the same time, people are concerned about the credibility and trustworthiness of their media; they are looking for ways to quantify bias (e.g. https://mediabiasfactcheck.com) - a purpose that aligns with the intent of the linguistic bias paradigm. Linguistic bias research is thus uniquely positioned to have a potentially large and meaningful impact but is failing to do so.

Unfortunately, research in this area is currently stifled by the time-consuming and resource-intensive process required to detect linguistic bias. To manually code for linguistic bias, it is necessary to first train independent coders to identify word types from the LCM (i.e. training manual by Coenen et al., 2006). Once trained, coders will do a detailed, word-by-word, reading of the text, which is a tedious and lengthy process. Once complete, any differences must be resolved through discussion or review by a third independent rater. Thus, this is not a reactive approach; bias detection cannot usually take place until well after the current event is no longer news. The reliance on manual coding means that the length and number of texts that can be coded is limited by resources and time, so researchers typically analyze a small number of texts that are relatively short in length. Further, texts are analyzed for a single bias instead of a more complex combination of biases as likely occurs in reality. This is not to say that all research in this area is limited in this way, only that to do otherwise requires a considerable investment of resources.

This is why I am working with Dr. Ryan Boyd, an expert in natural language processing, to develop an automated approach to lingistic bias coding. We have already developed a few versions of an automated method and are currently comparing them with the manual codes of the same texts. We ultimately plan to package our automated approach in open source, easy-to-use software and distribute it online. I believe a freely available automated method would fundamentally change the nature of research in this area by dramatically decreasing the burden with which it is conducted. By doing so, it would also improve the quality and realism of the texts analyzed - researchers could analyze language as it occurs naturally within large corpuses (news articles, books, interview transcripts) with significantly fewer resources than it takes to manually code a single paragraph.

I'm really excited about this project! I believe that natural language processing and the use of so-called 'big data' are imminent methodological innovations that are full of promise. I'm also grateful to the International Association of Language and Social Psychology, as this collaboration arose out of my involvement at ICLASP 2018 in Edmonton - it all started as an informal chat between sessions and ended up as an international collaboration funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

International Collaboration on Communication and Health

(by Rachyl Pines, IALSP Secretary, May 2021)

In a summer workshop at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2019, cohosted by the Asian Association of Social Psychology (AASP) and the International Association of Language and Social Psychology (IALSP), I had the opportunity to brainstorm with researchers from around the globe about the role of communication in health. One thing that stood out to all of us were the differences across countries of how people pursue receiving healthcare and what may be important to them in their care. From this workshop, a team of colleagues and I launched a multinational, multilingual, mixed-methods survey study investigating the role of culture in shaping patient values for their care, and how they desire for their provider to enact those values. This team includes Nicola Sheeran, PhD (Australia), Liz Jones, PhD (IALSP President, Malaysia), Blair Jin, PhD (Macau), Aron Pamoso, BSc (Philippines), and Maria Benedetti, RN (USA). This collaboration has been very successful as each member of the research team adds valuable expertise about the healthcare system in their country.

We have had over 2,200 survey responses from participants in five different countries: USA, Australia, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Nepal. Qualitative findings indicate key differences by country in what patients value in their care. Australian participants valued control in their care very highly, and also wanted their provider to have engaged interactions and recognize and meet their emotional needs. American participants valued control in their care and being well-informed of all of their options. They also wanted their doctor to share power in decision making, and have active and engaged interactions. Participants in the Philippines also highly valued control in their care. However, they very commonly reported wanting the doctor to direct the interaction, and having active and engaged interactions. This suggests that although these participants want the doctor to direct them, they want to have the final opportunity to consent to the treatment. Lastly, participants in Hong Kong highly valued being well-informed about the efficacy of treatment recommendations.

The desired behaviors uncovered in the qualitative data can all be recommendations for providers as they interact with patients such as being honest about the diagnosis and their level of expertise, and recognizing and meeting emotional needs of patients to name a few. Ultimately these results help researchers and practitioners to expand notions of patient centered care beyond Westernized notions of patient centeredness. Results of this study may help inform the creation of cultural competency programs for providers, or assist with creating a measure of shared decision-making or patient centeredness that can be used as a tool for providers as they establish new relationships with patients. Individually, as the research team members each learns from these results, we are making improvements to our own daily work in patient education and patient care.

Announcing Karolina Hansen as the new Editor-in-Chief of Psychology of Language and Communication

Psychology of Language and Communication is an international, peer-reviewed scientific journal publishing in the free Open Access standard since 1997. Both submitting manuscripts and accessing full-text articles is free of charge. It publishes articles on different aspects of psychological studies on language and communication processes in both children and adults. The topics include: language production and comprehension, the brain, cognitive and social bases of speech, nature of various discourse types, language development, disorders of linguistic and communicative competences, corpus studies, social media communication, psychological text analysis, human-AI communication, and social perception of spoken and written language.

Visit https://sciendo.com/journal/plc and submit your manuscript today!

Editor-in-Chief

Karolina Hansen, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland

Editorial Board

Marta Białecka-Pikul, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland

Megan Birney, University of Chester at University Centre Shrewsbury, United Kingdom

Agnieszka Dębska, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland

Ewa Haman, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland

Kayla Jordan, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, United States

Agnieszka Kałdonek-Crnjakocić, University of Warsaw, Poland

Piotr Kałowski, University of Warsaw, Poland

Nigel Mantou Lou, University of Victoria, Canada

Agnieszka Piskorska, University of Warsaw, Poland

Joanna Rączaszek-Leonardi, University of Warsaw, Poland

Marta Szreder, United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates

Małgorzata Szupica-Pyrzanowska, University of Warsaw, Poland

Public lecture by Howard Giles: "Don't talk yourself into an early grave!"

Former IALSP President Howie Giles will present a (virtual) public lecture hosted by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on April 30, 2021, 10:00 - 11:30 AM HKT (which, we note, corresponds to later in the day on April 29 for the United States). The talk is entitled: "Don’t talk yourself into an early grave! Intergroup and personal challenges of ageing successfully", and is part of the university's Distinguished Lectures in Humanities.

For more information, and to register to receive the Zoom link for the talk, please see: https://www.polyu.edu.hk/en/fh/news-and-events/event/2021/4/distinguished-lectures-in-humanities_30apr/

Call for Papers - Special Issue of Journal of Baltic Studies

The Journal of Baltic Studies (see http://bit.ly/Journal_Baltic_Studies) has an open call for papers for an upcoming Special Issue entitled, “(Beyond) National Identity in the Baltic Countries: Varieties, Correlates, and Takeaways”.

For additional details, please see the full CFP. [PDF]

Deadline for initial abstract submission is June 1, 2021.