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Uncertainty Reduction Theory

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on 10 October 2014

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Transcript of Uncertainty Reduction Theory

Uncertainty Reduction Theory
Charles Berger

Eight Axioms (5-8):
5.) High Levels Uncertainty Produce (High/Low) Rates of

6.) Similarities
(Reduce/Increase) Uncertainty, while Dissimilarities (Reduce/Increase) Uncertainty.

7.) Increases in Uncertainty Level Produce (Increases/Decreases) in
and vice versa.

Shared networks
(Increase/Reduce) Uncertainty, while a Lack of a Shared Network (Increases/Decreases) Uncertainty.
(transferred credibility)
Charles (Chuck) Berger
Professor of Communication, University of California, Davis
"The beginnings of personal relationships are fraught with uncertainty."
Why Want to Reduce?
Anticipation of future
Incentive value
Explain and Predict
What is the opposite of uncertainty?
Draws from Fritz Heider (Attribution theory)
For instance...

Two kinds of uncertainty: (1)
(acceptable procedural protocols)

(2): who is the other person?
Eight Axioms (1-4):
1.) As
Verbal Communication
Increases, Uncertainty (Increases/Decreases)

2.) As
Nonverbal Warmth
/Expressiveness Increases, Uncertainty (Increases/Decreases) and vice versa.

3.) High Levels of Uncertainty (Increases/Decreases)
Information Seeking

4.) High Levels of Uncertainty Cause (High/Low) Levels of
Berger combines multiple pairs
of his axioms to create
28 theorems.

Example: If uncertainty reduction increases reciprocity (5), and increases information seeking (3), then high levels of reciprocity produce high levels of information seeking and vice versa (Theorem 16, Figure 10-1)

All together, create a detailed theory of interpersonal development.
Cognitive Uncertainty Reduction
10 years later...
From cognitive uncertainty ---> Why do we produce certain messages? Social interaction is
Message plans
: we continually construct cognitive/interactional plans (action sequences) to achieve goals.
Hierarchially organized; abstract at top, concrete as you work your way down to bottom.
Even if you are intelligent/cognitively complex. you may not accomplish your goal/plan outcome.
The probability of perfect communication is zero
Berger merges the two works (uncertainty reduction and message plans).
How do individuals cope with uncertainties they face when constructing plans? How can they deploy a message w/out risks?
Inform roommate you're moving out (detach)
Be courteous
Be firm
No qualifiers
Repeatedly state
your case
Use consistent tone in voice
short sentences
sharp hand gestures
eye contact
Shake hand
Reduce Uncertainty=
Seek Information + Attached Social Costs
Passive Strategies
: observing; surveillance (back stage)

Active Strategies
: Ask third parties/indirect questioning (biased view filtered); trial by fire; testing limits

Interactive Strategies
: Direct, face-to-face questioning; can offer self-disclosure

Hierarchy hypothesis:
when attempt to achieve goal is thwarted, alter lower-levels
: Use ambiguity and humor
to save face when message fails
Anxiety/Uncertainty Management (AUM) Theory
William Gudykunst
, University of California, Fullerton
Took URT into the context of intercultural settings (assumed at least one person is a stranger).
Series of crises, undergo anxiety/uncertainty; hyperaware of differences, overestimate identity
: Axioms format; focus on stranger interactions
1)Uncertainty (cognitive) +
(affective): uneasy, tense, worried, apprehensive
2) End goal=
effective communication
(received = intended) vs. relational satisfaction/closeness
Multiple Causes
4) Lower and upper thresholds for fear and doubt
consciously think about our communication and changing to be more effective.
Determinism ---> Free Will
Self Concept

Situational Context

Motivation to Interact

Categorization of Strangers

Attitude towards Stranger

Closeness with Stranger

Ethical Responsibilities
Uncertainty Management

Anxiety Management
Prototype of objective theory (has simplicity, straightforward, testable hypotheses, etc)

Buuuut: predictability and theorem 17 (like more= info seek less). Breaks tight, logical structure.

Axiom 3:
of info promotes uncertainty reduction (or is it

Others have also doubted info seeking relevance to future interaction, incentive value, or deviance
Finally: Debate over primary goal of 1st interaction (relational outcome or who s/he is?)
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