Anxiety/Uncertainty Management Theory

Anxiety/Uncertainty Management Theory (AUM) was originally proposed by the late William Gudykunst as an extension of the Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT), which predicted when strangers meet for the first time they seek to reduce uncertainties they have about each other so that they can more easily predict each other’s behaviors, thus helping with their communicative interactions and relationship development.

Gudykunst took URT, added the variable of anxiety, and predicted that strangers seek to manage anxieties and uncertainties they have about each other, and that this can help improve intercultural/intergroup adaptation, and thus communication, through the reduction of barriers like stereotypes and prejudice.

Gudykunst asserted effective communication is the goal we all strive for when interacting with other people face-to-face, and that effective communication is influenced primarily by uncertainty, anxiety, and also mindfulness (Gudykunst, 1994, p. 37). Mindfulness refers to the idea of focusing on your immediate surroundings and becoming aware that stereotypes and prejudice might be adversely affecting your perception of other people for no logical reason.

For instance, if you travel to a different country and feel anxiety and uncertainty about interacting with the locals, this might be because of stereotypes you’ve subconsciously picked up about people from this culture. The AUM theory predicts you can successfully reduce this anxiety/uncertainty by becoming aware of prejudice/stereotypes that might be affecting your judgment, and thus increasing your chances of having successful intercultural interactions with the locals.

Disclaimer: The above post is part of a series on intercultural/intergroup communication theories I did on a former blog.

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