Project #39189 - COMM 300



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Uncertainty Reduction Theory


Life is full of uncertainties, and nothing is more uncertain than meeting someone for the first time.  Your text states that “when strangers first meet, they are primarily concerned with increasing predictability in an effort to make sense out of their communication experience.”  Thus, researchers Charles Berger and Richard Calabrese devised the Uncertainty Reduction Theory to explain what happens on first encounters. 

One of my favorite films is “The Goodbye Girl,” a 1977 romantic comedy starring Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason.  Mason, an unemployed dancer, is reluctantly forced to share an apartment with Dreyfuss, a struggling off-Broadway actor.  This scene depicts an early encounter in which they try to decide if this living arrangement can possibly work.

(You can read more about the film at

On page 150 of your text, the authors identify seven assumptions about the Uncertainty Reduction Theory.  As you review the film clip, try to see how these assumptions apply to the scene. 





Question 2: Social Exchange Theory

As we know from the Social Penetration Theory, not all relationships go in a perfectly straight line.  Often people experience problems that make them want to consider the costs and rewards of those relationships.  That’s the major idea behind the Social Exchange Theory

The Social Exchange Theory, according to your text, “is based on the notion that people think about their relationships in economic terms.”  In other words, costs versusrewards.  My initial interpretation was that the theory was limited to dollars and cents.  However, the text goes on to define costs as “the elements of relational life that have negative value to a person” and rewards as “the elements of a relationship that have positive value."

“The Social Exchange perspective argues that people calculate the overall worth of a particular relationship by subtracting its costs from the rewards it provides,” the authors state.  Pretty simple, n'est-ce pas?

Well, it turns out to be somewhat more complicated than that.  The Social Exchange Theory is based on several assumptions about human nature:

  • Humans seek rewards and avoid punishments.
  • Humans are rational beings. 
  • The standards that humans use to evaluate costs and rewards vary over time and from person to person. 

(How true do you think those assumptions are?)

Moreover, your text identifies two assumptions that Social Exchange Theory makes about the nature of relationships:

  • Relationships are interdependent.
  • Relational life is a process. 

(Probably not too much to disagree with about that!

One of the best examples of the application of the Social Exchange Theory is domestic violence.  Most victims of domestic violence, as you know, are women.  Those of us who have never experienced such abuse often ask “Why does she stay in an abusive relationship?”  An answer to that question comes from Leslie Morgan Steiner, an American author, blogger and businesswoman, whose 2009 memoir Crazy Love talked about surviving domestic violence. Here is her story: 

As you view her presentation, please address the questions raised by the assumptions about human nature and relationships listed above.  How did Ms. Steiner evaluate the costs versus the rewards of her relationship?  Finally, why do you think she stayed in that relationship for so long?

Subject English
Due By (Pacific Time) 09/06/2014 05:00 pm
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