Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2014, 2, 120-123
Published Online May 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/jss
How to cite this paper: Ryaguzova, E.V. (2014) Representation of “I-Stranger” Interaction as a Communication Risks Pre-
dictor. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2, 120-123. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/jss.2014.25024
Representation of “I-Stranger” Interaction
as a Communication Risks Predictor
Elena V. Ryaguzova
Department of Psychology, Saratov State University, Saratov, Russia
Received February 2014
The paper contains a theoretical study of the personal representation of “I-Stranger” interaction.
The differentiation of the native-strange and close/ours-alien dichotomies is suggested. The em-
pirical study (N = 100) which highlighted the ambivalent nature of personal representation of
“I-Stranger” interaction, its ambiguity and variability has been conducted. The prospects of re-
presentation of “I-Stranger” interaction studying in modern multicultural world are stated. The
applied aspect of the stated problem can be implemented in the training programs on the perso-
nality intercultural sensitivity development.
Social Psychology, Personality, Communication Risks, Representation “I-Stranger”, Dichotomy
“We-They”, Ambivalence of the “Stranger” Representation
Modern society is described with a variety of metaphors characterizing its different perspectives figuratively and
clearly and providing a kind of categorical shift from the content of the offered metaphor to its clearly articu-
lated meaning: “the play society”/“La societé du spectacle” (Guy Debord), “the consumer society”/“La société
de consummation” (Jean Baudrillard), “the knowledge society” (R. Lane), “the information and post-industrial
society” (Alvin Toffler), “the network society” (Manuel Castells), “the global village” (Marshall McLuhan),
“the individualized society” (Zygmunt Bauman), “the risk society” (Ulrich Beck). The variety of metaphors re-
flects the actual ongoing social processes and indicates the availability of such invariant features of the modern
society as globalization, high-volume production and consumerism, information and visual culture, virtualiza-
tion and demonstration/manifestation of different risks.
The risks of the modern society are in the focus of our research interest. The psychological discourse of the
notion “risk” is shown clearly in the following contexts: 1) risk as an expectation measure for success/failure de-
fined by the failure probability ratio and value of negative consequences; 2) risk as an action associated with
loss and failure; 3) risk as situation of alternative choice between safe but less appealing actions and more bene-
ficial but dangerous solutions; 4) risk as a value described by the binary oppositions “good-evil”, “acceptable-
forbidden”, “fair-unfair”; 5) risk as responsibility concerning regulation and psychological obligations to be ac-
countable for actions and their consequences.
E. V. Ryaguzova
The purpose of this paper is to analyze of the personal representation of “I-Strang er ” interaction, and search
its content and role/importance in the psychological risks genesis.
2. Psychological and Communication Risks
In the framework of this article we terminate the area of psychological risks with communication risks, determi-
nistic processes of interaction and communication, interpersonal relations, personal experiences and evaluations.
Communication risks in the course of I-Other interaction are associated with the loss or minimization of contacts,
developing of intercourse barriers, overrunning the roles, uncertainty and complexity of dynamic features of the
situation forecasting. Risks can be due to both communicators’ personalities, their communication competence
level, and set social and psychological attitudes, socially developed expectations and stereotypes. Communica-
tion success and efficiency depend on to what extent the ability of the interaction participants to see in “Other”
an equal partner and simultaneously acknowledge their right to be different is developed. Moreover, concerning
communication risks we intentionally specialize the subject area of our study limiting it to the contacts with
“Other ” like “Stranger ”.
2.1. Analysis of the Construct “Stra nger” and Notion “Strange”
The construct “Stranger” suggests the out-group existence which actualizes the Subject’s anxieties, fears, or ag-
gressive attitudes and opposed/hostile settings. Some of these groups are easily differ in group affiliation formal
matters, and others are categorized with casual or least significant differences. It is important that the less evi-
dent these differences are, the more rigorous criteria of the group differentiation are necessary to make these
differences more prominent and noticeable.
The essential for our analysis fact should be mentioned—the logical connotation of the notion “St rang e” in
many cultures there are such characteristics as dangerous, evil, hostile. “Strange” is positioned as a dual pair to
“one’s own”, typified through the reference to the social category “We” and evaluated/assessed as dangerous,
hostile, risky. Opposition “We-They” is mainly based on stereotypes—social attitudes formed and adopted in the
course of socialization and acculturation. These are stereotypes which enable to recognize “ours” and “strange” by
few decisive criteria, save time and personal resources, emphasize and clarify significant differences between
groups as well as comment on the behavior towards other groups which is often beyond ethical standards work-
ing with the regard to “ours”. Such approach is traditional for psychology but from our point of view it too ex-
tends meaningful and semantic field/area of the construct “Stra nge”, preventing from making clear the concep-
tual framework of finer-grained distinctions. It points up the danger of “Strange”, eliminating the fact that in
certain situation “our s” can be the source of danger and “strange” appears to act as a resource of development.
2.2. The Determination of the Notions
To develop more flexible scheme for differentiation we suggest to draw a distinction between the notions
“Strange” and “A lien”, taking binary pairs “ natural-str ang e”, “close/ours-alien” as a basis, put forward by V.I.
Slobodchikov . Opposition “natural-strange” reflects blood relation, belonging to a particular clan, specifity
of the relations and involvement into the specific group. “Natural” is described through the personal attitudes/
relations—parental, matrimonial—when the personality can ontologize themselves, i.e. to develop their being
with Others and for Others, associate/refer themselves with/to the world, gain the qualitative determinancy in it
and hold one’s own position, i.e. to make a self-determined personality . “Strange ” may not be labeled as
dangerous and threatening but arouse either indifference or interest and curiosity, fixing identity based on dif-
ferences compared to those who this personality appears not to be. In this context the meaning interpretation of
the “strange” depends on the situational context, the intercommunication purpose, territorial localization, status
of the “Strang e”, their command/holding of economical, cultural and social capitals, the rate of threatening to
the in-group and factors/indexes setting different parameters to social distance.
Opposition “clo se/ours—alien” represents spiritual affinity/closeness, similarity of interests, attitudes, shared
meanings, and common invariant values on one of its poles. In this case the example of co-relations is friendly,
intimate relationship based on affection and attraction. There are contrary qualities and characteristics on the
The main differentiating principles of distinction between “insiders/us” and “outsiders/them” are the prin-
E. V. Ryaguzova
ciples of social comparison and inequality, expecting aprioristic dominance of an in-group. In the extreme va-
riant “Strang e” and “Alien” are transformed into the image/figure of the “Enemy ” represented by the particular
people, visualizing the whole scale of negative qualities and characteristics, disembodied and impersonal mass,
peaceful co-existence with whom is impossible and morally depraved/ill-natured; abstract entity constituting
real, potential or virtual danger to the group existence.
3. Organization and Research Methods
The study involved 100 men aged 18 - 20 years. The study process included three empirical series. In the first
series values ranking was sequentially conducted according to the varied optics of Self-conception and virtual
Stranger visions to determine values arrays configuration personality-centered and attributed to Strange by the
personality (methods of Milton Rokeach); the second series was aimed at identifying emotional-evaluative con-
tent of representations “I”, “Ideal”, “St ran ge” (the modified version of G.U. Soldatova’s method ); during the
third series the transformation of the emotional-evaluative component of the stereotyped image of “Strange” as
compared with the representation of “Ene my ” was studied (G.U. Soldatova’s method).
4. Study Deliverables, Analysis and Discussion
The results of the first series of studies have revealed the differences in the values configuration attributed by the
personality to them and to Strange. However, these value sets are not opposing one another or mutually exclu-
sive, in fact they have intersecting areas. Thus, for the majority of the test groups health, love, active life were
the most significant values, but entertainment, nature and art beauty were the least valuable. As for the value sets
attributed to Stranger we can distinguish their quantitative and qualitative characteristics. We refer a greater
range of respondents opinions to the quantitative features due to the uncertainty of the character of Stranger, and
different values configuration where development, self-confidence, easy circulation life were priority-oriented,
and the happiness of others and nature and art beauty were the least valuable, to the qualitative features. Conse-
quently, the configuration of values attributed by the personality to them and to Stranger lack of the expressed
inversion, have intersecting points and vary rather in such psychological culture measurement as “collectiv-
The results of the second and third series were obtained using a modified version of the G.U. Soldatova’s
questionnaire and are presented in “Table 1”.
Represented data testify that in subjective evaluation of oneself, one’s own ideal and uncertain Stranger a
non-personified figure of Stranger being a stereotyped image is characterized by high rates of ambivalence
which indicates of fuzziness and uncertainty of the image evaluated/assessed, negative orientation and negative
valence (as compared to I and Ideal). It should be noted that I-image is also ambivalent, furthermore, there are
no significant differences between I-image and Stranger-image in the parameter “a mbivalence.” From our point
of view, the uncertainty of the Stranger-image is due to the fact that it is difficult to fill it meaningfully because
it is not complementary to the I-image: there is no shared past, currently important present and anticipated future,
there are no meeting points of existential meanings. If the construct “Enemy” is input into the comparative range
(the results of the 3 series), then the reinforcement of the ambivalent characteristics of the Stranger -image takes
place and transformation of the negative valence into positive is visible (at the level of the lowest values). In this
case, “Str anger ” stereotype appears to be subjectively more neutral image, not loaded with strongly marked
connotative characteristics such as mobile, flexible, changeable representation, which is easy filling externally
and is likely to be a modifier of behavioral pattern, values, meanings, attitudes and become a risks communica-
Table 1. Emotional-evaluative component of the stereotyped images.
2 series 3 series
I Ideal Stranger I Ideal Stranger Enemy
Ambivalence 0.62 0.37 0.7 0.68 0.56 0.81 0.64
Extent 0.32 0.56 −0.26 0.3 0.46 0.06 −0.3
Emotional orientation 0.07 0.13 −0.05 0.06 0.1 0.01 −0.06
E. V. Ryaguzova
The conducted theoretical study made it possible to differentiate the constructs “Strange” and “Alien”, and em-
piric study results confirmed the multiplicity and variability of personal representation of “I-Strang er ” interac-
tion. Construct “Str ang er ” lacks its own qualitatively-quantitative certainty and is easily filled with meaning
content with account of personal or situational contexts.
In modern global multi-polar and flexible world a special consideration should be given to the “Stranger” ste-
reotype. By the substantive content of this construct in particular it is necessary to modify the nature of interac-
tions between large groups (e.g. ethnic, religious) and societies, generally, changing the known dichotomy
“We-They”, based on direct opposition and inevitable conflict between them for dual symmetrical pair
“We-You”. Relations within this dyad are also associated with self-determination, which is a key condition for
inclusion into social relations net (work) and interactions, but herein a priori equality of parties/participants, re-
spect to each other, differences recognition and tolerance for them are expected, that in whole causes the possi-
bility of polylogical and polyphonic communications, reduces the communication risks and encourages the
problem solving of social interactions harmonization.
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