Graduation Date

Spring 2018

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Psychology, option Academic Research

Committee Chair Name

Amber Gaffney

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Kauyumari Sanchez

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Gregg Gold

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories



People use verbal communication with other group members as unique social identity markers. Individual’s word choices adjust and change based on the group to which the individual belongs. For example, regional slang allows for people to view themselves as a distinct group represented in a particular geographic location (e.g., Northern Californians and the term “hella”). As a result, when individuals recognize the informal language (slang) of their fellow group members, they should feel confident and included in their group. However, when individuals hear their peers communicate norms by using slang with which they are unfamiliar, it should create feelings of exclusion and threaten their identity as a group member. This aversive uncertainty should motivate individuals to identify with their group because the group provides information about themselves.

The current work focuses on the use of uncertainty and group specific slang, which is the identity-specific information derived from group membership, as a marker of social identity. Participants (N = 126) were randomly assigned to conditions of uncertainty (high vs low) against conditions of slang (known or unknown) on self-reports of group identification, perceived entitativity, and self-prototypicality. We specifically hypothesized that slang that highly uncertain participants did not understand would create a negative drive state which would result in a high level of reported group identification.

These findings suggest that the informal words with which we communicate establish a sense of identity and belonging in self-relevant groups. Understanding a group’s slang can increase feelings of belongingness to a group and similarity to other group members. Not knowing an ingroup’s slang is a form of lacking understanding of the group’s norms and can mark the person as an outsider. We discuss these results in terms of the role of group-based slang as indicators of both group inclusion and exclusion.

Citation Style



Thesis/Project Location