Uncertainty Reduction Theory
“The Vow” and “Meet the Parents”
Uncertainty reduction theory is “the point of view that uncertainty motivates communication and that certainty reduces the motivation to communicate” (Wood, definition). This theory was first developed by Charles Berger. He believed that when people are to meet for the first time they have a high level of uncertainty and the only way for them to reduce it is to communicate with one another. “They don’t know what each other likes, thinks and believes; how each other responds to certain reactions, and they’re unsure what each other expects or wants from interacting” (Wood,184). There are three prior conditions that are meant to help individuals want to reduce uncertainty. First is anticipation of future interaction, people will try and communicate and get to know someone as much as they can so they can reduce the possible ‘awkwardness’ in the future. Next is incentive value, which means people will try and reduce the uncertainty in hopes for something good to come from their interaction; relationship, friendship etc. Last is deviance. The uncertainty reduction theory is something that we see and experience in our daily lives. We are constantly meeting new people, as well our movies and television shows are filled with multiple examples of this theory. So for the following project I have decided to focus my attention on two popular movies and I have observed the characters while they meet new ‘friends/family’ and ‘companions’. I hope from these two movies I will be able to prove the following theory that people try and communicate more in hopes to reduce uncertainty.
The first movie I selected is a very recent movie that just came to theatre’s, “The Vow” starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. It is based off a true story, a recently new married couple get into a serious car accident where the wife is left in a coma. When she awakens she is left with severe memory loss and cannot remember anything about her new life with her husband. Throughout the movie it is as if they are strangers and they are trying to get back to what they once were like before the accident. The second movie I chose is an older film, “Meet the Parents,” starring Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. This movie is more about Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) wanting to propose to his girlfriend, but before he can do so he needs to meet with her father, Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) and get his permission to marry his daughter. But her father is not an easy man to please, and from there is a roller coaster of disastrous events of the two characters trying to get to know one another.
“An axiom is a statement that is presumed to be true on its face and therefore does not require proof or explanation” (Wood, 186). There are seven different axioms of uncertainty reduction theory that can be used but I will only focusing on a few for the following two movies. “All of the axioms build on and reflect the foundational ideas that uncertainty is discomforting and we seek to reduce it” (Wood, 186). The first axiom I observed throughout the two movies was verbal communication; “Given the high level of uncertainty present at the onset of the entry phase [of relationships], as the amount of verbal communication between strangers increases, the level of uncertainty for each person in the relationship decreases. As uncertainty is further reduced, the amount of verbal communication increases” (Wood, 187). What this axiom means is that when people are first meeting one another there is a very high level of uncertainty but when they continue to talk and ask questions about one another the level of their uncertainty should decrease and they can become more comfortable around one another. This axiom was fairly evident in both of the following films, although it was slightly different for one of the movies. For example in the movie “The Vow” Rachel McAdams has no memory of her new husband or even who she...
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