The Analysis Of Different Research Of Uncertainty Reduction Theory

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 Uncertainty reduction theory (URT) was initially presented as a series of axioms – universal true statements which do not need to be proved, and theorems – propositions considered to be true but needed explanation, which describe the codependency between uncertainty and different communication factors. A purpose of developing URT was the description of the interrelationships between verbal communication, nonverbal expressiveness, information-seeking behavior, similarity, intimacy, reciprocity, and liking. C.R. Berger and Calabrese originated this theoretical perspective in 1975. The research was drawn on the work of Heider (1952).

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Given review of following literature examines URT on how it applies to computer communication, culture contexts, small groups, family context, initial stranger interactions.

The first research that was examined for my research project is called Getting Acquainted through Social Network Sites: Testing a Model of Online Uncertainty Reduction and Social Attraction. This study was made by Patti Valkenburg, Marjolijn Antheunis, and Jochen Peter in 2008. The study had two main aspects. The first aspect examines which uncertainty reduction strategies members of social network sites used to collect the information about a person who they recently met online. The second aspect of the research is to investigate whether and how these strategies resulted in the world of social attraction. To complete the research, Antheunis and Valkenburg use a survey of 704 members of a social network site, and find that respondents had used such strategies as active, passive, and interactive in order to reduce uncertainty about their new friends and acquaintances.

According to Antheunis and Valkenburg, participants were asked general questions about the way they use Hyves website. Participants were asked if they had met at least one friend with the help of Hyves or the Internet in general. If it was the case, respondents were asked to think of the one online friend with whom they stayed in touch most recently through Hyves. Subsequently, they were then asked a series of questions about this online friend.

Researchers discover that interactive strategies are most effective in reducing uncertainty about the person who is your target. Moreover, respondents’ uncertainty level about the acquaintance mediated the relationships between the use of interactive uncertainty strategies and similarity on the one hand and social attraction on the other hand. Finally, the research demonstrates that respondents’ valence of the gained information about particular online friend moderated their relationship between social attraction and uncertainty level. (2008, p.7).

Results of the current study indicate that respondents are not able to differentiate the primary tension level in groups, while observers are able to tell the difference in primary tension behaviors. (2008, p.11).

The second research project, which is called Seeking Mrs. Right: Uncertainty Reduction in Online Surrogacy Ads by Amy May and Kelly Tenzek (2011), examines the influence of advertising among surrogate mothers on communication’s uncertainty.

May and Tenzek study how surrogate mothers use online advertisements to reduce the uncertainty considering their surrogacy journey. The purpose of designing this study was to find a better understanding considering the perceived desirability traits defined by surrogates in online commercials. Content analysis identifies consistent themes and subsequent categories. Current research paper exposes five main key traits used by surrogates in online advertisements: moral boundaries, logistics, idealism, willingness parameters, and personal disclosure (2011, p.28).

As the study went, May and Tenzek analyzed 102 advertisements posted by surrogates on Surrogate Mothers Online (SMO). The first step included reading each commercial under the surrogate category of the SMO categories. The second step of analyzing data was an open coding. After making a review of each ad, May and Tenzek isolated general features related to the perceived desirability traits as defined by the advertising surrogate mother. A detailed outline was the result of an open-coding process, which identified approximately seven categories. To ensure interceder reliability, the ads were read a second time by another independent coder. Then, the two coders compared notes related to the main themes. In the third step, axial coding, categories were divided into three main topics. The results section discusses each theme and category in detail to be able to define the perceived desirability traits (2011, p.32).

Coding results of May and Tenzek’s work were categorized into three distinct themes: personal information, idealism, and logistics. The results support the claim that the disclosure of information about perceived desirability traits significantly reduces uncertainty, increasing liking and supporting future interaction between surrogate mother and IP. By disclosing certain information, surrogates reduce uncertainty and encourage matching, which helps them to live through surrogacy period (2011, p. 28).

The next research concerning online communication that I’ve examined was made by David Westerman and Ron Tamborini (2006). Westerman and Tamnorini studied a correlation between avatar in our social media and its importance on the uncertainty level in online communications.

Tamborini and Westerman’s study compares three different ways of communication: face to face (FtF), online communication without an avatar, and online communication with an avatar. This approach supposes that communicators make attempts to achieve communication goals in on-line settings as much as in off-line settings, trying to overcome potential boundaries of on-line friendship. Surprisingly, tests on uncertainty that was made during the study shows that uncertainty is equally high across interaction modes upon initial contact, but notable differences were observed after five minutes of interactions (2006, p. 12).

However, according to Tamborini and Westerman’s satudy, the impact of avatar on online interaction depends on avatar. For instance, it was examined that avatar with a person in glasses makes you trust this person more than a person without wearing glasses in his avatar picture. Furthermore, distractive features of an avatar might divert your attention from cues and increase the uncertainty level. More plausible is the likelihood that certain avatars introduce uncertainty. Distractive features are either in general terms such as a distorted face, or strange in terms of being inconsistent with expectations for the interaction setting. In such cases, the directly-available nonverbal information might increase uncertainty. A different avatar may be less distracting, or its use in a different setting might reduce uncertainty (2006, p.15).

Focusing on culture context, William Gudykunst made a study over uncertainty reduction in low – and high – context cultures. His explanatory study is called Uncertainty Reduction And Predictability Of Behavior In Low – And High – Context Cultures (1983).

Gudykunst presents an exploratory comparison of two aspects of initial interactions in low- and high-context cultures. The types of questions Gudykunst uses to reduce uncertainty and the degree of attributional confidence based upon background information.

Gudykunst made a survey of 287 respondents, who were students at a moderate sized northeastern university. Among all of the participants, one hundred and seventy-four of the respondents were from low- context cultures (United States, Germany, Switzerland) and 113 were from Asian high-context cultures (Japan, China, Korea). With an age range from 18 to 24, the respondents were divided equally between females and males (1983, p.7).

The results of Gudykunst’s study suggest that members of low-context cultures are less cautious in initial interactions with strangers than are members of high-context cultures. Members of high- context cultures tend to make assumptions concerning strangers based upon their background, while members of the low-context cultures are not tended to do so. Moreover, people from high-context cultures are tend to ask more questions about a stranger’s background to clarify assumptions, when members of low-context cultures don’t. Furthermore, there are significant correlations between making assumptions about a person based on his cultural background and all three predictive certainty measures in high-context cultures, while for low- context cultures none of the correlations turned to be significant.

However, there is one correlation which is significant in low-context cultures, but not in high-context cultures – the correlations between making cultural background assumptions and the use of background interrogation. Further, while the correlation between the need for caution and sociability predictive certainty is positive for high- context cultures, which accordingly increase uncertainty, while it is negative for low-context cultures – there is less need in predictions, which decreases uncertainty (1983, p.11).

The next study concerning cultural aspect of uncertainty was made by William Gudykunst, Tsukasa Nishida and Karen Schmidt in 1989. The study is called The Influence of Cultural, Relational, and Personality Factors on Uncertainty Reduction Processes.

The purpose of Gudykunst, Nishida, and Schmidt’s study was to examine the influence of cultural variability on various types of communication. The hypothesis claims that cultural variability in individualism-collectivism influences uncertainty reduction in both in group and outgroup relationships, while cultural variability in masculinity-femininity make an influence on uncertainty reduction in same-and opposite-sex relationships. The second hypothesis says that self-monitoring and predicted outcome value of the relationship change the uncertainty reduction processes in the relationship. Per Gudykunst and Nishida, the data of current research included respondents in Japan, a collectivistic and masculine culture, and the United States, an individualistic and feminine culture (1983, p.6).

In-group and outgroup research result of The Influence of Cultural, Relational, and Personality Factors on Uncertainty Reduction Processes has shown that the mean for networks was significantly higher in the in-group condition. Surprisingly, more self-disclosure, was reported in the outgroup condition. In addition, the greatest amount of self-disclosure, attraction, and high-context attributional confidence occurred in male-female relationships, which reduced uncertainty, and the least in male-male relationships (with the highest uncertainty level). The results of female-female and female-male relationships occurred to be in the middle (1983, p.12).

Another important aspect of studying uncertainty is uncertainty level in small groups, which was examined by the group of professors, including Melanie Booth-Butterfield, Steven Booth-Butterfield from West Virginia University, and Jolene Koester from California State University (1983, p.13).

The group of professors focused on the manipulative levels of uncertainty. The studies also employed self-report, observer-ratings, and behavioral coding to assess primary tension in groups.

Thus, a simple regression was conducted on the self-reported primary tension scores by the three conditions. According to The Influence of Cultural, Relational, and Personality Factors on Uncertainty Reduction Processes, the response to a question concerning prior acquaintance was also included as a co variate in the analysis. A simple regression of the reported primary tension scores by condition was also not statistically significant. Nevertheless, the model did account for a very large amount of primary tension (1983, p.21).

Given results need more careful interpretation, which means that the results of current study show that participants are not able to differentiate the levels of primary tension in groups, while observers can reliably tell the difference in primary tension behaviors (1983, p.22).

In the next research, called The Incentive Value of Uncertainty Reduction for Children, Jerome Feldstein and Sam Witryol from the University of Connecticut studied the application of uncertainty reduction theory on children.

The major hypothesis of the present study per Witryol and Feldstein was following: uncertainty reduction can act as an incentive when placed in a competition with an established high incentive object. Research with children, as well as adults and animals, points to the reinforcing and incentive properties of reducing uncertainty about a stimulus. Two-choice visual preference experiments give a reliable result which tells that children prefer more complex and novel pictures, and forms that motivates them to move and develop forward (1983, p.22).

In general, the results of Witryol and Feldstein’s experiment support their major hypothesis: expectation of uncertainty reduction, defined as seeing which of four alternative objects has been concealed within a package, has incentive properties when placed in competition with an established high incentive object, which can be a fair motivation for children (1983, p.24).

The last study that I’ve examined was Uncertainty Reduction Over Time in Initial Stranger Interactions: A Social Information Processing Theory Approach by David Westerman and Rom Tamborini (2008).

Westerman and Tamborini’s research shows the dynamic of uncertainty reduction process over time in initial stranger interactions. Drawing on Social Information Processing Theory (Walther, 1992), which assumes that people are able to overcome communication channels limitations to accomplish their goals in communication, Westerman’s study examines both uncertainty level and the use of interactive uncertainty reduction strategies in ongoing face-to-face (FtF) and computer-mediated (CMC) interactions (2008, p.2).

To address given questions, 60 strangers interacted in male-female dyads for 15 minutes in one of two modes: using instant messenger or face-to-face. After the participants communicated, each person was asked to report their uncertainty levels toward their partner for each minute of the interaction retroactively. For a better result, the interactions were coded for the number of interactive uncertainty reduction strategies used in each minute of communication. The data showed that despite uncertainty started higher in CMC than FtF as it was expected from the beginning, it followed similar patterns of reduction over time in both conditions, which was not expected (2008, p.5).

To sum up, it’s relevant to say that uncertainty reduction theory explains correlation and causation of uncertainty, its roots, influence different levels of communications and relationship in general. In this review of literature on URT in various context, it’s evident that in computer communication in general, it takes more time to build close relationship, and there are some factors that can either increase or decrease uncertainty, like avatars and time. On the other hand, in a culture contexts it’s evident that uncertainty in a relationship increases in high-context cultures and decreases in low-context cultures. Moreover, the greatest amount of self-disclosure, attraction, and high-context attributional confidence occurred in male-female relationships, which reduced uncertainty, and the least in male-male relationships. Small groups study indicated that participants cannot differentiate the levels of primary tension in groups, and the study needs to be reviewed. In family context, it was shown that uncertainty could be motivation for children. Initial stranger interactions study’s result indicated that uncertainty started higher in CMC than FtF as expected, it followed similar patterns of reduction over time in both conditions, which was not expected (2008, p. 11).  

24 May 2022

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