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Encyclopedia of Communication Theory

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Encyclopedia of Communication Theory

Stephen W. Littlejohn & Karen A. Foss

Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: September 17, 2009 | DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412959384 | Print ISBN: 9781412959377 | Online ISBN: 9781412959384 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.

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Uncertainty Reduction Theory

Leanne K. Knobloch

Uncertainty reduction theory (URT), formulated by Charles Berger and his colleagues, strives to explain how people communicate when they are unsure about their environment. The theory, in its original form, limited its claims to the context of strangers meeting for the first time. Although URT borrowed some concepts from information theory and attribution theory, it is notable as one of the first theories of interpersonal communication to originate within the field instead of being borrowed from another scholarly discipline. This entry will describe the theory, review its major applications, and identify its strengths and weaknesses. URT defines uncertainty as people's inability to predict or explain their own behavior or the behavior of others. The theory identifies two types of uncertainty that are prominent in social situations. Cognitive uncertainty arises when individuals are unsure about their own beliefs or the beliefs of others. Behavioral uncertainty occurs when people are unsure about ...

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