In situations with rival groups, people strategically use language to strengthen group identity and foster intergroup competition. We distinguished 2 communication mechanisms to accomplish this: (a) linguistic aggression toward out-group members, (b) communicating group expectancies. We contrasted these mechanisms across 2 experiments by studying verbal irony. Experiment 1 targeted speaker behavior and showed that Dutch soccer fans found irony more appropriate to comment on out-group (vs. in-group) members, regardless of behavioral valence. Experiment 2 demonstrated differential inferences from irony by neutral observers: Fans using ironic comments about competent (vs. incompetent) behavior were seen more as out-group and less as in-group members. Our experiments demonstrated a communication asymmetry between speaker behavior and addressee inferences.
Burgers, C. F., Beukeboom, C. J., Kelder, M., & Peeters, M. M. E. (2015). How sports fans forge intergroup competition through language: The case of verbal irony. Human Communication Research, 41(3), 435-457. https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12052