Uncertainty Reduction: Definition, Theory & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What Is a Facilitator in a Business? - Definition & Role

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Uncertainty Reduction Theory
  • 0:30 Why the Uncertainty?
  • 1:16 Types of Uncertainty
  • 1:57 Acquiring Information…
  • 2:58 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Johns

Ashley has taught college business courses and has a master's degree in management.

Have you ever met someone and wanted to know more about him or her? Is this a normal feeling? Why do you want to know more? How can you find out more? This lesson explains those uncertain feelings and how to manage them.

Uncertainty Reduction Theory

The uncertainty reduction theory was developed by Charles 'Chuck' Berger. It states that people need to reduce uncertainty about other individuals by gaining information about them. For example, your friend, Sam, invites you to join her and her co-workers for dinner. You know your friend spends a lot of time with her colleague, Deb, both at and outside of work. This gives you a feeling of uncertainty. You feel a need to know more about this person.

Why the Uncertainty ?

There are three reasons people typically feel uncertain: anticipation of prior interaction, incentive value and deviance. Let's take a look at each of the three reasons.

  1. Anticipation of prior interaction: Sometimes, you may feel uncertain about others when you know you will see them again. For example, you may think you are going to see Deb again and you want to know more about her if you continue to hang out with her.
  2. Incentive value: In other situations, you may feel uncertain about an individual if that person has something you want. Did Deb mention she has a car for sale? Are you wondering what kind of car it is? How much is she asking for it? Why is she getting rid of it?
  3. Deviance: Finally, you may feel uncertain about seeing a person that acts in an unusual way.

Types of Uncertainty

Now that we understand why we experience uncertainty, let's discuss the different types of uncertainty: behavioral and cognitive.

  1. Behavioral uncertainty occurs when you are more concerned about other people's behaviors. Why do they act that way? Should you adjust how you behave around them? For example, Deb dresses stylishly and acts a little standoffish. Are you dressed up enough to hang out with her? Should you be concerned about your actions and appearance?
  2. Cognitive uncertainty occurs when you're more concerned about what another person is thinking. Personality traits fit into this category, as well. Deb has a bubbly personality. You find yourself wondering: Is she always this happy?

Acquiring Information About Others

To relieve uncertainty, people often find ways to gain information about others. Depending on the situation, they may use one of three strategies: passive, active or interactive.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account