Uncertainty Reduction Theory

By: Charles Berger & Richard Calabrese

Basic Premise: Uncertainty arises when people lack information therefore individuals seek information in order to predict and explain their surroundings thus reducing their overall uncertainty of the situation.

Three Reasons to Seek Information:
·       Deviation: An individual violates our expectations and we are curious to find out more information
·       Anticipation of Future Interaction: We are more motivated to reduce uncertainty when we expect to interact with someone again in the future
·       Incentive: We want to know more about people who control rewards that we are interested in

Three Ways to Seek Information:
·       Passive Strategy: Watching someone without being observed
·       Active Strategy: Asking a third party for more information
·       Interactive Strategy: Obtaining information directly through asking questions and offering personal information about yourself

Eight Axioms of Uncertainty Reduction Theory
(self-evident truths that require no additional proof)
1-       Uncertainty is negatively associated with verbal communication
2-       Uncertainty is negatively associated with nonverbal affiliative expressiveness
3-       Uncertainty is positively associated with information-seeking behavior
4-       Uncertainty is negatively associated with the intimacy of communication content
5-       Uncertainty is positively associate with reciprocity rate
6-       Uncertainty is negatively associated with the degree of similarity between partners
7-       Uncertainty is negatively associated with liking.
8-       Uncertainty is negatively associated with shared communication networks between partners

Overview of Film Examples

Uncertainty Reduction Theory can be found in all four movies; Meet the Parents, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, You, Me & Dupree as well as Guess Who. In all of these films, two members of the triad lack information regarding each other and subsequently attempt to seek information in order to reduce their uncertainty. In most of these examples, the son-in-law or future son-in-law attempts to seek information more because they are not only hoping for future interaction with the parent-in-law but the parent-in-law also holds a reward; their approval of their daughters significant other. The axioms that are used most frequently by members of the triad are axiom one, three, six and seven.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

This scene highlights Gus Portokolas’s high uncertainty because of his lack of information and understanding regarding his future son-in-law Ian Miller. In the next few encounters between Gus & Ian, Gus uses both an active and interactive strategy to gain more information about Ian in the hopes of reducing his uncertainty. (axiom 3) In addition, as soon as Ian is baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church, Gus finds a commonality between them and even begins to like Ian which then drastically decreases his uncertainty. (axiom 6 & 7)