Interpreting Causal Uncertainty

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Interpreting Causal Uncertainty with Individual’s Initial Interactions Many studies have been conducted to examine why people feel the way they do towards events or situations they perceive as not their stereotypical “norm” or feeling uncertain as to why someone did what they did. In a study by Gifford Weary and John A. Edwards (1994), they define this uncertainty about one’s inability to comprehend or identify causal relationships or causal conditions in society as causal uncertainty (CU). Whether you are trying to make sense of why your best friend does not want to go out to the movies or why a stranger started talking to you in an elevator, people have this overwhelming urge to understand or reason the cause of another person’s behavior, so that their reaction is fitting (Weary, Tobin, & Edwards, 2010). The research has show that because of the universality of traumatic events in the world, such as natural disasters, school shootings, deaths, murder, and so on, it is plausible that many individuals feel that they are not capable of adequately determining the causes behind the occurrence of such social events (Weary & Edwards, 1994). They found that individual differences can be assessed by the causal uncertainty scale (CUS); the CUS measures the person’s response to beliefs (Weary & Edwards, 1994). The need to understand cause-and-effect relationships within the context of society is likely to influence the behavior of some individuals (Weary & Edwards, 1994). The inability to understand people’s reactions or inaction or causal uncertainty symptoms can materialize into the feelings of disorientation, discomfort, or turmoil (Weary et al., 2010). It is believed that there are certain conditions that must exist in order for a person to suffer from CU, in that there must be some uncertain feelings present whether they were caused by the surroundings, expected outcomes that were not met, or self-perception (sensitivity) (Weary et al., 2010).

More recently research has suggested that the internal issues felt by people high in CU extend to daily contact with strangers, acquaintances and friends (Weary et al., 2010). Namely, causally uncertain people tend to avoid face-to-face conversations with strangers, tend to be shyer and the mere interaction with other people can lead people with CU to feel rejected (Weary et al., 2010). Research would suggest that people high on the CUS tend to avoid interactions with strangers in general at any level or global uncertainty (Douglas, 1991). Past negative experiences with strangers weigh heavily on how a globally uncertain individual interacts with someone the first time they meet, more so than just the general anxiety one feels during the process of “getting to know” someone (Douglas, 1991). For instance, Douglas (1991) discussed that individuals who experience higher levels of global uncertainty are not capable of fostering a logical plan on how to guide their behaviors during initial interactions. Therefore, being uncomfortable, self-conscious, and lacking intimacy in the acquaintanceship processes (Douglas, 1991). Although global uncertainty pertains to the acquaintanceship practices (conversations) and causal uncertainty is applied to social situations, researchers can postulate that similar effect are evident with anxiety, discomfort, or inability to recognize social cues (Douglas, 1991).

The purpose of the study is to be able to explore possible explanations for causal uncertainty and the experiences felt when questioning why someone did or did not do what was expected, failing to obtain the answer or the inability to comprehend. According to Weary and Edwards’s (1994), causal uncertainty feelings arise when individuals perceive that there is not have enough information to recognize the cause of a particular event, thus giving rise to more interpersonal problems. If an individual does not feel that they understand the underlying intent of another person’s verbal or nonverbal...
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