Uncertainty Reduction Theory

Topics: Communication, Interpersonal relationship, Uncertainty reduction theory Pages: 14 (4688 words) Published: September 17, 2008
This paper deals with uncertainty reduction theory from its origin to date. Ever since uncertainty reduction theory was first created, many researchers have examined it by comparing it with other theories. Uncertainty reduction theory had been tested across different cultures in order to confirm its generalizability. It had also been applied to real life situations to examine how individuals interact in their initial encounters with strangers. In addition, researchers suggested testing uncertainty reduction theory beyond initial encounters rather than strangers. Finally, criticisms were provided for potential future studies.

Uncertainty reduction theory was created by Charles Berger in 1975. This theory addressed the process of how we get information about other people in initial encounters. The first time we meet a stranger, we face a high level of uncertainty and we must want to reduce that uncertainty by getting more information about the other person. Therefore, Berger and Calabrese (1975) provided several strategies for us to deal with this kind of initial interaction. Researches examining axioms and theorems of uncertainty reduction theory were presented by many professional researchers in order to expend or adjust the original theory created by Berger in 1975. On the other hand, researchers also extend uncertainty reduction theory beyond initial interactions between strangers by testing across different relationships and different cultures. Timeline

The initial phases of interaction between strangers were labeled as follows: entry phase, personal phase, and exit phase (Berger & Calabrese, 1975). During the first phase, when strangers are faced with each other in a particular situation, their communication behaviors are determined by a set of communication rules or norms and they tend to ask and give a symmetric amount of information. After interactants start to explore each other’s attitudes and opinions, they are ready for the second phase which contains socially undesirable aspects of their personalities and social relations. In the final phase decisions are made concerning the desirability of future interaction. What Berger and Calabrese (1975) meant by uncertainty was prediction and explanation components. At the very beginning of a particular encounter, one person must attempt to develop predictions about the other before the other acts. The individual is engaged in the first stage of uncertainty reduction, a proactive process of creating predictions. Then, the individual may wonder the meaning of the other interactant’s behavior, trying to reduce the number of plausible alternative explanations in his mind. It’s the second stage of uncertainty reduction concerning the problem of retroactively explaining other’s behavior. The relationships were explained between uncertainty and other variables: verbal communication, nonverbal expressiveness, information seeking, intimacy, reciprocity rate, similarity, and liking (Berger & Calabrese, 1975). They posited seven axioms and twenty-one theorems for studying the development of interpersonal relationships as follows. (1) The amount of verbal communication between strangers and the level of uncertainty are related negatively. (2) As nonverbal affiliative expressiveness increases, the level of uncertainty will decrease. (3) High levels of uncertainty cause increases in information seeking behavior. (4) Uncertainty in a relationship decreases the intimacy level of communication content. (5) High levels of uncertainty produce high rates of reciprocity. (6) Similarities between persons reduce uncertainty. (7) Increases in uncertainty level produce decreases in liking. From the preceding seven axioms, the following twenty one theorems are deduced. Verbal communication is positively related to nonverbal expressiveness (T1), intimacy (T2), liking (T5), and similarity (T6) and is negatively related to information seeking...
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