“We never talk about that”: A comparison of cross-sex friendships and dating relationships on uncertainty and topic avoidance

Authors


  • Walid A. Afifi is an assistant professor at the University of Delaware, Department of Communication. Judee K. Burgoon is a professor at the University of Arizona, Department of Communication. This study is part of the first author's Master's thesis, which was directed by the second author.

Address correspondence to: Walid A. Afifi, University of Delaware, Department of Communication, 250 Pearson Hall, Newark, DE 19716. E-mail: afifi@udel.edu

Abstract

Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT) proposes that individuals have a need to reduce uncertainty and that elevated levels of uncertainty are associated with relational dissatisfaction. Research on cross-sex friendships suggests that these relationships may be characterized by elevated levels of uncertainty and topic avoidance. This investigation addresses the role of uncertainty as a theoretical construct that may be useful for explaining behavior in cross-sex friendships. Specifically, we address the relationship between uncertainty and topic avoidance, and compare cross-sex friendships and dating relationships on these variables. The results significantly extend past research on cross-sex friendships and suggest that uncertainty may often be tolerated in cases where the expected information is undesirable.

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