Scholarly article on topic 'Willingness to Communicate and Identity Styles of Iranian EFL Learners'

Willingness to Communicate and Identity Styles of Iranian EFL Learners Academic research paper on "Psychology"

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{"Identity styles" / "Willingness to communicate" / "Self-perceived communication competence" / "Communication apprehension"}

Abstract of research paper on Psychology, author of scientific article — Nourollah Zarrinabadi, Tayebeh Haidary

Abstract This study aims at investigating the relationship between willingness to communicate (WTC) and identity styles of Iranian EFL learners. The participants were 186 language learners at Alpha Language Center, Ilam. Three measures of willingness to communicate, communication apprehension (CA), and self-perceived communication competence (SPCC) developed by McCroskey and his colleagues (1987, 1988, 1992) and Identity Styles Inventory (ISI) developed by Berzonskey (1990) were given to the students. Correlation analysis indicated that WTC and self-perceived communication competence are positively correlated with informative and normative identity styles, while negatively correlated with diffuse-avoidance. Findings also indicated that CA is positively correlated with diffuse-avoidance and negatively correlated with informative and normative identity style.

Academic research paper on topic "Willingness to Communicate and Identity Styles of Iranian EFL Learners"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 2010 - 2017

International Conference on Current Trends in ELT

Willingness to Communicate and Identity Styles of Iranian EFL

Learners

Nourollah Zarrinabadia *, Tayebeh Haidaryb

aAllameh Tabataba'i University, South Allameh Tabataba'i Street, Sa'adat Abad, Tehran, Iran bIlam University, Pazhouhesh Street, Ban Ganjab, Ilam, Iran

Abstract

This study aims at investigating the relationship between willingness to communicate (WTC) and identity styles of Iranian EFL learners. The participants were 186 language learners at Alpha Language Center, Ilam. Three measures of willingness to communicate, communication apprehension (CA), and self-perceived communication competence (SPCC) developed by McCroskey and his colleagues (1987, 1988, 1992) and Identity Styles Inventory (ISI) developed by Berzonskey (1990) were given to the students. Correlation analysis indicated that WTC and self-perceived communication competence are positively correlated with informative and normative identity styles, while negatively correlated with diffuse-avoidance. Findings also indicated that CA is positively correlated with diffuse-avoidance and negatively correlated with informative and normative identity style.

© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selectionandpeer-reviewunderresponsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

Keywords: Identity styles; Willingness to communicate; Self-perceived communication competence; Communication apprehension.

1. Introduction

When faced with the task of identity formation, individuals need to decide on very important issues in their lives like following a profession, believing in a religion, or adopting some political ideas (Vleioras and Bosma, 2005). Individuals may gather information in order to make decisions or act upon the prescriptions which are set

* Corresponding author. Tel.:+98-918-843-0822. E-mail address: nur.zarrinabadi@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.636

forth by some significant others to approach such issues (Berzonsky, 1990; Vleioras and Bosma, 2005). The purpose of this study is to address whether ways of approaching identity issues are related to high school students' feelings toward communication (communication traits) in various situations and with various interlocutors.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Identity styles

Social-cognitive model of identity emphasizes "the role that social cognitive strategies and processes play as individuals engage in or mange to avoid the process of constructing and revising a sense of identity" (Berzonsky, 2004, p. 304). This theory conceptualizes identity as both a process and a cognitive structure. Identity conceptualized as a process is concerned with navigating and determining those resources which individuals apply to deal with and adapt in their everyday life (Berzonsky, 1990). Identity as a cognitive structure is like a personal framework for deciphering experiences and self-relevant information in order to know the meaning, significance, and the ends of life (ibid). This model underscores differences in people's processing self-relevant information, making decisions, solving problems, and constructing/reconstructing self-theories (ibid). This model identifies three types of identity styles or social-cognitive processing orientations. Berzonsky (2008) states that individuals indicate an inclination toward one of these three identity styles when participating in or escaping from activities related to shaping and sustaining identity. Berzonsky and Ferrari (1996) reported that identity styles pass on variances in individual's capacity to attend to information, confront difficulties, and make resolutions. These identity styles (also called identity processing orientations) are: information processing orientation, normative processing orientation, and diffuse-avoidant processing orientation.

First, informational processing orientation individuals deal with identity issues with self-reflection, actively hunting for, processing, and evaluating information. These people are very curious to learn things about themselves. They are open to new information about themselves, skeptical about self-construction, and try to inspect and revise aspects of their identity (Berzonsky, 1990, 2004). These people prefer to gather information about the outcomes of their selections and actions before making autonomous decisions (Duriez & Soenens, 2006). Informative identity style has been reported to be associated with experiential openness, planned decision making, conscientiousness, maladaptive coping strategies, parental support, psychological control, self-exploration, extraversion, and cognitive complexity (Berzonsky, 1990; Berzonsky & Kuk, 2000, 2005; Berzonsky &Neimeyer, 1994; Dollinger, 1995, Smits et al., 2008; Soenens et al., 2005).

Second, normative processing orientation individuals tend to comply with expectations, prescriptions, and values which are deemed appropriate by others (e.g. parents, teachers, and authority figures). Individuals with this type of identity style tend to rigidly abide by the structure of their identity (Berzonsky, 2004). They assimilate all information to their identity structure, attempt to safeguard their present self-views, and resist against information that may endanger their beliefs and values (Berzonsky, 1990; Duriez & Soenens, 2006). Berzonsky (2004) reports that individuals with a normative identity style have a high need to keep their cognitive closure and are low tolerant of ambiguity. Normative styles are reported to be agreeable, conscientious, and possess stable, foreclosed self-concepts (Berzonsky, 1990; Berzonsky & Kuk, 2005; Berzonsky & Neimeyer, 1994; Dollinger, 1995). Normative styles are found to be correlated with maladaptive coping strategies, support, and behavioral control (Smits et al., 2008; Soenens, Duriez, & Goossens,& 2005).

Third, diffuse-avoidant processing orientation is characterized by defensive avoidance and procrastination (Berzonsky, 1990). Individuals with such an identity style are unwilling to tackle and stand up to decisional situations, conflicts of identity, and personal problems. Berzonsky (1994, 2004) believed that individuals with diffuse-avoidant identity style may not avoid problems and decision making situations indefinitely and make some

context-specific judgments but these changes tend to be some short-term, transient verbal or behavioral conformities rather than enduring and stable alterations of identity structure. Diffuse-avoidant style has been found to be closely connected with high levels of dysfunctional cognitive strategies, self-handicapping, and identity diffusion and low levels of cognitive persistence, neuroticism, self-awareness, psychological control (Berzonsky & Ferrari, 1996; Berzonsky & Kuk, 2000, 2005; Dollinger, 1995; Smits et al., 2008).

2.2. Willingness to Communicate (WTC)

McCroskey and Richmond (1987), based on the findings of previous researchers, developed the willingness to communicate (WTC) construct which fully accounted for individuals' general personality orientation for communication in different contexts and with various others. WTC was defined as the intention to initiate communication when the choice was given (McCroskey & Richmond, 1987). McCroskey and Richmond conceptualized WTC as a personality trait and developed an instrument which measured person's willingness for communication in different communication situations and with various types of receivers. McCroskey and Richmond (1987) conceptualized WTC as a trait but asserted that sometimes situational variables can impact on it. Reflecting on this trait view, researchers tried to find out those individual's variables which affect WTC. The results indicated that variables like Communication Apprehension (CA), Self-Perceived Communication Competence (SPCC), motivation, age, and sex exert influence on WTC (Donovan & MacIntyre, 2004; Hashimoto, 2007; MacIntyre, 1994).

2.3. Communication Apprehension (CA)

Communication Apprehension (CA) has been defined as "an individual's level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons" (McCroskey, 1997, p.78). Past research shows that individuals who experience high level of CA may withdraw from communication or avoid it (Daly and McCroskey, 1984). Buss (1980) suggested that formality of situation, novelty of the situation, subordinate status, conspicuousness, unfamiliarity of the communication situation, dissimilarity of communication situation, and degree of attention from others are the major causes of CA. CA has been found to be negatively correlated with variables like perceived competence, amount of interaction, and self-disclosure (MacIntyre, 1994; McCroskey and Richmond, 1977).

2.4. Self-Perceived Communication Competence (SPCC)

McCroskey and McCroskey (1998) reported that there are four methods for measuring communication competence: objective observation, subjective observation, self-report, and receiver-report. They saw the self-report method to be the most likely to be of use because people make choices about communication according to their self-perceived communicative competence (SPCC) and developed a self-report instrument by the same name for its measurement in various situations and with various types of others. SPCC was conceptualized as a trait and was found to be associated with individual differences such as CA, WTC, compulsive communication, and shyness (MacIntyre, 1994; Teven et al., 2010).

Conceptualizing identity styles from a social-cognitive perspective, Berzonsky and his colleagues (1992, 2004, and 2005) stated that people with different identity styles may differ in the way they relate to others, deal with social challenges, and experience anxiety and stress. This study aims to examine whether there is any relationship between identity styles and communication behavior among Iranian high school students. Therefore the objective of the present study is to answer to the research questions below.

RQ1: Is there any relationship between Iranian high school students' informational identity styles and their WTC, SPCC, andCA?

RQ2: Is there any relationship between Iranian high school students' normative identity style and their WTC, SPCC, and CA?

RQ3: Is there any relationship between Iranian high school students' diffuse-avoidant identity style and their WTC, SPCC, and CA?

3. Method

3.1. Participants and Procedure

The participants of the study were 186 (96 Male, 90 Female) language learners at Alpha Language Center, Ilam. All of the students were from 17 to 21 years old (M=17.6, SD=3.2) and their native language was Kurdish. The questionnaires were filld in at school and during scheduled class time periods/hours. The students received no extra credit for their participation. Adequate time was given to students to answer the items.

3.2. Materials

3.2.1. Self-Perceived Communication Competence (SPCC)

Self-Perceived Communication Competence (SPCC) questionnaire developed by McCroskey and McCroskey (1998) was used for measuring participants' perceptions about their communicative competence. The instrument comprises 12 items (e.g. " Present a talk to a group of acquaintances") for which the subjects should indicate their perceived competence on a 0-100 scale. This questionnaire provides information about participants perceived communication competence in four types of context (dyad, group, meeting, and public speaking) and with three types of receivers (stranger, friend, and acquaintance). The instrument has been reported to be a valid and reliable one in different contexts (Burroughs, Marie, & McCroskey, 2003; Dilbeck and McCroskey, 2009; MacIntyre, 1994; McCroskey and McCroskey, 1988). Zarrinabadi (2012) reported the instrument to be a reliable measure of communication competence in Iranian context. Alpha of reliability for the instrument in this study was .92.

3.2.2. Personal Report of Communication Apprehension (PRCA-24)

PRCA-24 is a likert-type questionnaire for measuring communication apprehension. The questionnaire was developed by McCroskey (1982) and includes 24 items (e.g. "Generally, I am comfortable while participating in group discussions") which measures individuals communication apprehension on a 5-point Likert-scale basis (1 = "strongly disagree'' and 5 = ''strongly agree"). PRCA-24 measures learners feeling about communication with three types of receivers (friend, stranger, and acquaintance) in four communication situations (group, meeting, dyad, and public speaking). Alpha reliability estimate for PRCA-24 in this study was .73.

3.2.3. Willingness to Communicate (WTC) Participants' tendency for communication was measured using Willingness to Communicate (WTC) questionnaire developed by McCroskey and Richmond (1987). The questionnaire includes 20 items (e.g. "talk with an acquaintance while standing in line") which measures learners' WTC in different context and with different

others. Respondents were asked to indicate their WTC in a 0-100 scale in which 0 and 100 represents a continuum of being never to always willing to communicate. Alpha of reliability for the instrument in the current study was .93.

2.3.4. Identity Style Inventory (ISI3)

Identity styles were assessed using Berzonsky's (1992) Identity Style Inventory (ISI3). ISI is a 5-point Likert-scale questionnaire, from 1= "not at all like me" to 5 = "very much like me", for which the participants are supposed to indicate the degree to which 40 statements are self-descriptive. ISI includes four scales which are informational-style scale (11 items, e.g. " I've spent a lot of time reading and trying to make some sense out of political issues"), normative style scale (9 items, e.g. "I've always had purpose in my life; I was brought up to know what to strive for"), diffuse-avoidant scale (10 items, e.g. "It doesn't pay to worry about values in advance; I decide things as they happen" ), and an identity commitment scale (10 items, e.g. "I'm not sure which values I really hold" ). This inventory has been reported to be a reliable measure in different environmental and cultural contexts (Berzonsky, 1992; Bosch and Card, 2012; Crocetti et al., 2009; Duriez and Soenens, 2006; Vleioras and Bosma, 2005). Crocetti and Shokri (2010) validated this instrument in Iranian context. Alphas of reliability of four scales in this study were: Informational (.73), normative (.71), diffuse-avoidant (.72), commitment (.71).

4. Results

All data were enterred into and analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS 20). Descriptive statistics of scales of communication traits, three identity styles, and identity commitment are presented in Table 1. Pearson product moment correlations were calculated for communication traits and three identity styles. Table 2 presents the correlations among informational, normative, and diffuse-avoidant identity style and communication traits (WTC, SPCC, and CA). Results showed that all correlations have been significant. The findings indicated that WTC is positively correlated with informational identity style and normative identity style, whereas negatively related to diffuse-avoidant identity style. Students' perceived competence was found to be negatively correlated with diffuse-avoidant identity style, while positively correlated with informational and normative processing orientations. Contrary to WTC and SPCC, CA was found to be positively correlated with diffuse-avoidant processing orientation and negatively correlated with normative and informational identity styles. Identity commitment was also found to be positively correlated with all identity styles: informational identity style (r = .22,p < .01), normative identity style (r = .26,p < .01), diffuse-avoidant identity style (r = .43, p < .01).

Table 1. Descriptive statistics for communication traits and identity variables.

Variables Mean S.D. Maximum Minimum

Communication Traits

WTC 65.35 19.81 100 15

SPCC 71.66 18.15 100 15

CA 65.51 16.16 97 24 Identity Styles

Informational 37.72 6.35 55 17

Normative 30.97 5.22 44 15

Diffuse-avoidant 25.94 6.14 48 12

Commitment 29.13 4.07 49 18

Table 2. Correlations among communication traits and identity styles.

Communication Traits

WTC SPCC CA

Informational .43** .34** - 39**

Normative 39** .28* - 29**

Diffuse-avoidant -.21* -.25* .31**

Appendix A. * p < .05

Appendix B. ** p < .01

5. Discussion

The first research question asked about the relationship between informational identity style and communication traits. The findings indicated that informational styles are positively associated with individuals' WTC and SPCC, while negatively correlated with CA. Past research has indicated that informational styles are self-assured and self- confident individuals facing their life affairs with calmness and control of feelings (Berzonsky, 2004; Berzonsky and Kuk, 2005). Self-confidence has been found to exert a strong, positive impact on WTC making self-assured individuals more willing to talk in different situations (MacIntyre et al., 1998). Informational styles were negatively associated with apprehension about communication. Communication researchers have found that CA is negatively associated with WTC making individuals reticent and reserved (MacIntyre, 1994). Informational styles are high in WTC and low in CA for they have been reported to know how to cope with anxiety and stress, take part more in various activities, be more open to experience, and be well-prepared to deal with social and personal challenges (Berzonsky, 2004; Berzonsky and Kuk, 2000, 2005). Further, informational are closely tied to SPCC and WTC because they have been found to be more ambiguity tolerant, more knowledgeable about their capabilities, and more able to relate to others whose backgrounds is different from theirs (Berzonsky, 1990, 2004; Berzonsky and Kuk, 2005). Doumen et al. (in press) found that informational styles are more able to build friendship with peers. They added that such an association is affected by avoidance and anxiety which are closely connected with communication traits.

The second research question aimed to examine the relationship between normative identity style and communication traits. Normative identity style was found to be positively correlated with WTC and SPCC but negatively associated with CA. Dollinger (1995) reports that individuals with normative identity styles tend to be extroverts. Extroversion is reported as a variable participation in various communication,i.e., WTC (MacIntyre, 1994). In addition to benefiting from some of characteristics of informational styles like openness to experience and extraversion (Berzonsky, 1990; Berzonsky and Ferrari, 1996; Dollinger, 1995), which positively affect learners feelings toward communication, normative styles seek social support from others (Berzonsky, 1992) which has been reported to positively contribute to reducing apprehension and increasing WTC (Kang, 2005).

Third research question aimed to investigate the relationship between diffuse-avoidance and communication traits among Iranian high school students. Diffuse-avoidant identity style was correlated positively with CA and negatively associated with WTC and SPCC. Past research on identity styles indicates that diffuse-avoidant individuals are characterized with anxiety, procrastination, and avoidance (Berzonsky, 2004; Berzonsky

and Ferrari, 1996; Berzonsky and Kuk, 2005). Berzonsky and Ferrari (1996) stated that diffuse-avoidant individuals evade facing and dealing with personal conflicts and decision-making situations. This seems to be applicable to their feelings while communicating in different situations and with various interlocutors. Diffuse-avoidant individuals prefer to steer clear of those communication situations which provoke stress and anxiety or withdraw from them, the phenomena which are reported to be among the main effect of CA (McCroskey, 1997; Daly and McCroskey, 1984). Stress, anxiety, and avoidance, some of main features of individuals with diffuse-avoidance identity style, are found to be negatively associated for willingness to talk and SPCC (MacIntyre, 1994; McCroskey, 1997). Diffuse-avoidance has been reported to be unable to develop mature interpersonal relationships (Berzonsky and Kuk, 2000, 2005; Dollinger, 1995) especially peer relationship (Berzonsky and Kuk, 2000), and be low in openness to experience (Berzonsky, 1990; Dollinger, 1995) which are variables directly or indirectly related to actual communication or communication traits. Doumen et al. (in press) report that diffuse-avoidance is positively associated with loneliness. A possible reason may be their low level of WTC and high level of apprehension which causes them to be more reticent and less able to communicate which eventually makes them alone.

One limitation of the present study is that it used self-report questionnaires as its sole data collection methods. Using other data collection methods can present a clearer account of the relationship between communication traits studied and identity styles.

6. Conclusion

This study aimed to investigate the relationship between identity styles and communication traits of Iranian high school students. Findings of the present study indicated that identity styles are to some extents manifested in communication traits of Iranian high school students. Informational and normative styles were found to be more willing to talk and perceive themselves as more competent for communication compared to diffuse-avoidant individuals. Diffuse-avoidant styles were found to experience more apprehension about communication compared to other two identity styles. Future research could be done to examine how different identity-related construct (e.g. self-compassion) are related and manifested in communication behavior of individuals.

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