© The Author(s) 2019. This research examined whether linguistic abstraction in group-directed criticisms moderates the intergroup sensitivity effect. Study 1 (N = 76) showed that criticisms coming from an out-group member and formulated in concrete terms—which imply lower generalizability and stability of the information transmitted—provoked less negative reactions compared with out-group criticisms formulated in abstract terms. Linguistic abstraction did not affect reactions to in-group criticism. In Study 2 (N = 77), receivers of concrete criticism from an out-group representative attributed less hostile intentions and prejudice to the critic, and this mediated the impact of critic group membership and linguistic abstraction on negativity toward criticism. Participants also reported more favorable attitudes toward the out-group as a whole when out-group criticism was formulated in concrete terms. This research underlines that linguistic abstraction can facilitate or obstruct effective group communication, and has important implications for the development of communicative strategies aiming to promote social change.
Journal of Language and Social Psychology