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The Concise Encyclopedia of Communication by Wolfgang Donsbach

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Uncertainty and Communication

Dale Brashers

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Uncertainty has been an important concept in communication theory for many decades (→ Uncertainty Reduction Theory). Understanding how people respond to uncertainty in developing relationships (→ Relational Uncertainty) and in intercultural encounters has been the foundation of a large body of interpersonal communication research. This work has demonstrated complex relationships between communication, → information seeking, and the management of uncertainty (→ Uncertainty Management). “Uncertainty exists when details of situations are ambiguous, complex, unpredictable, or probabilistic; when information is unavailable or inconsistent; and when people feel insecure in their own state of knowledge or the state of knowledge in general” (Brashers 2001, 478).

Recent theory-building and theory-testing have extended the concept into the domains of social influence and behavioral change, primarily through → health communication research. Theories of communication and uncertainty management, motivated information management, problematic integration, and the risk-perception attitude are recent theoretical directions that recognize the complexity of uncertainty and information management in the area of health. Social influence researchers have used theories of → information processing and uncertainty management in recent research on health behavior change. Other related areas of research have included ...

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