British Journal of Social Psychology

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Volume 34 Issue 3 (September 1995), Pages 223-350

Manners of expressing negative and sympathetic attitudes towards the unemployed (pages 303-323)

Social psychologists have examined ways in which indirectness and discursive techniques allow the communication of prejudice while not breaching the tolerance norm. The role these techniques play in the expression of other kinds of attitude, however, is as yet unknown. The present study examined the discursive techniques used by 67 employed individuals to express negative and sympathetic attitudes towards the unemployed. A style of directness was used significantly more frequently to express sympathetic attitudes than negative attitudes. Conversely, credibility techniques were used significantly more frequently to express negative attitudes than sympathetic attitudes. These credibility techniques were used in conjunction with either directness or indirectness. However, against hypothesis, indirectness alone was not used more frequently to express negative than sympathetic attitudes; in fact, one type of indirectness was associated to a greater extent with the expression of sympathy than with negativity. It was predicted that professionally employed individuals would tend to use different discursive techniques than non‐professionally employed individuals. This prediction, while supported by a difference on a composite measure of the manners of expression, was not confirmed for any of the styles considered separately.

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