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According
to the textbook Introducing communication theory: analysis and
application the uncertainty reduction theory is the explanation of
how communication is used to reduce levels of uncertainty in initial
interactions.  To lower levels of
discomfort and uncertainty individuals attempt to predict and explain
behavioral choices.  Prediction is used
to forecast behaviors whereas explanation is used to interpret the meaning of them.  The two types of uncertainty are cognitive
and behavioral.  Cognitive uncertainty
pertains to beliefs and attitudes whereas behavioral is referring to the level
of predictability. 

            The uncertainty reduction has two
processes that are involved in reducing uncertainty.

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The
proactive process attempts to lower uncertainty by preparing for interaction
prior to communication.  An example of
this might be a person asking a friend what the stranger’s name is or what
their interests are.  In the retroactive
process, people try to reason out and make sense of situations that have
occurred.  For example, an individual
makes a comment about not liking music, the other person present in the
conversation walks away trying to figure out if they meant their music or music
in general. 

            When multiple outcomes to
interactions are high and the likelihood of them happening are equally as high
levels of uncertainty are accelerated. 
Self-disclosure or revealing personal information about oneself to
another also affects uncertainty.  There
are seven concepts mentioned in the book associated with feelings of uncertainty
they consist of information seeking, self-disclosure, reciprocity of
self-disclosure, non-verbal warmth, verbal output, similarity, and liking (West
& Turner, 2018).  These concepts in
the uncertainty reduction theory are commonly used in daily interactions and
provide a way to reduce anxieties when facing the unknown.  

            Article Relation

            In the article, The Function of Uncertainty Reduction in Alleviating Primary Tension in
Small Groups the uncertainty reduction theory reflects the use of communication
and understanding as well as the potential for effective communication.  Uncertainty is caused by the apprehensiveness
of the unknown in an interaction.  The
uncertainty reduction theory uses explanations and predictions to lower levels
of uncertainty so effective communication can take place. 

            The article uses initial
interactions to demonstrate levels of uncertainty and how people use
communication to lower uncertainty.  This
is accomplished by sending and receiving in various interactions using verbal
or non-verbal symbols and interpreting meanings or messages. The study shows that
people entering social groups with no prior knowledge of the groups have higher
levels of uncertainty than those entering the groups having prior
knowledge.  It also demonstrates the
power of the socio-psychological tradition that assumes behavior is influenced
by one or more variables.   Socio-cultural
tradition comes into play when having prior knowledge about the group makes the
one entering aware of patterns of interaction and prepares them to be mindful
of differences in identities and of biases. 
Demographic and biographic information are other factors that should
contribute to discomfort and uncertainty. 
Knowledge creates more confidence in communication and lowers levels of
discomfort. 

            Defining communication can be
difficult because there are so many ways to study, interpret, and conceptualize
it.  Theories of communication are
important because they help people know what type of communication is
appropriate for different scenarios. 
Through observation and research theories help bring meaning,
understanding, and problem-solving in interaction.  Application of theories can increase
confidence and decrease anxiety. 

About
a Theory

            Theories are ideas that help explain why events
occur.  Theorists use research to
validate and make sense of those ideas.  Research
involves making observations, collecting data, and using the pure or applied
research methods.  Theories should be
evaluated by their scope, logical consistency, parsimony, utility, and
testability.  Evaluation should also include
heurism, which refers to the extent of new insight a theory has generated and whether
the theory stands the test of time.  Theories
need the flexibility to allow change over time. 
Basic foundations of a theory may exist but values, belief systems, and
meanings change with each generation.  Personal
beliefs and values do influence some theories while others try to avoid the integration
of personal beliefs.  For example, a
feminist theory would focus on social change, interpersonal theories may seek
for understanding, and organizational theories may center on prediction.  Empirical researchers try to avoid values in
research whereas interpretive and critical researchers recognize how values
influence research.         

            There are three building guidelines for theory building which
consist of the covering law, the rules approach, and the systems approach.  The covering law is a general law used to
explain events however, most see this type of law as unrealistic.  When referring to the rules approach the
assumption is that communication is rule-driven rather than law-like.  This approach focuses on how rules regulate the
interactions with others.  Lastly, the
systems approach states that free will is constrained by the system people
operate within.  Characteristics of the systems
approach include hierarchy, interdependence, and wholeness.

 

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