Uncertainty Reduction Theory
The uncertainty reduction theory, also called the initial interaction theory, is a communication theory that focuses into the initial interaction between individuals prior to the actual communication process. This theory, developed in 1975, suggests that when interacting, people need information about who they’re intermingling with in order to lessen their sense of uncertainty as they are able to predict the other party’s behavior and actions when information is gained. This theory emphasizes the importance of these factors in the development of any relationship. The inability to foresee or explain an individual’s actions can be considered as the central motivating force that guides behavior during “first encounters” with other people. High uncertainty motivates people to seek information and holds attraction until knowledge about the other person is gained (Kellerman & Reynolds, 1990). Under high levels of uncertainty, answers to questions seeking information involve low levels of intimacy and tend to decrease interpersonal attraction. According to Berger and Calabrese (1975), [Access to some parts of the theoretical framework has been limited]).
However, the desire to reduce uncertainty does not end with first encounters. As Berger (1979) later claimed, “the communicative processes involved in knowledge generation and the development of understanding are central to the development and disintegration of most interpersonal relationships.” According to Livingston (1980), the reduction of uncertainty promotes relationship development, while Harvey, Wells, & Alvarez (1978) said that it plays a role in the dissolution of relationships. The figure below presents the model of uncertainty reduction theory:
Figure 1. Model of Uncertainty Reduction Theory (as cited in Heath & Bryant, 1999) [Access to some parts of the theoretical framework has been limited]