Stereotype transmission and maintenance through interpersonal communication: The Irony Bias

C.F. Burgers, C.J. Beukeboom

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In interpersonal communication, stereotypes are predominantly transmitted through language. Linguistic bias theory presupposes that speakers systematically vary their language when communicating stereotype-consistent and stereotype-inconsistent information. We investigate whether these findings can be extended to verbal irony use. The irony bias posits that irony is more appropriate to communicate stereotype-inconsistent than stereotype-consistent information. Three experiments support this hypothesis by showing that irony is found more appropriate (Experiments 1-2) and used more often (Experiment 3) in stereotype-inconsistent than in stereotype-consistent situations. Furthermore, linguistic biases have important communicative consequences, because they implicitly serve to maintain stereotypic expectancies. Experiment 4 shows that irony shares this characteristic with other linguistic biases, in that irony—compared to literal language—leads to more external attribution. Taken together, these results indicate that stereotypic expectancies are subtly revealed and confirmed by verbal irony, and that verbal irony plays an important role in stereotype communication and maintenance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-441
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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