Theory Comparison: Uncertainty Reduction, Problematic Integration, Uncertainty Management, and Other Curious Constructs



This paper compares 3 theories examining the role of communication in producing and coping with subjective uncertainty. Uncertainty reduction theory offers axioms and derived theorems that describe communicative and noncommunicative causes and consequences of uncertainty. The narrow scope of the theory and its axiomatic form are both advantageous and disadvantageous. Problematic integration and uncertainty management theories are comparatively broad, and they exhibit an open, web-like structure. The former theory scrutinizes the complex intersection of probability assessments and evaluations of the objects of these assessments, whereas the latter examines the various ways in which people cope with uncertainty, including sometimes attempting to increase it. The paper also compares meanings of “uncertainty” in the 3 theories as well as the roles played by natural language in the communication-uncertainty interface.