The Anxiety/Uncertainty Management Theory
According to William B. Gudykunst in his article "A Model of Uncertainty Reduction in Intercultural Encounters," the uncertainty reduction theory explains initial interactions between two strangers from the same culture. Studies, however, suggest this theory can also be extended to interpersonal communication between two people from different cultures.
Uncertainty refers to how well you can accurately predict how strangers will behave during their initial interaction and the ability to explain the strangers' behavior. Research on uncertainty reduction theory has been limited to attitude similarity. However, it has been argued that in order to understand the influence of similarity on interpersonal relations, research must examine cultural similarity/dissimilarity also. This term refers to how similar and/or different the cultures are from which the communicators come.
According to research, uncertainty is higher in intercultural encounters than in intracultural encounters. There are three major factors that influence communication between people from different cultures. One is cultural similarity/dissimilarity. The second is second language competence. Last is previous experience in the other culture. Depending on how similar two cultures are can influence a variety of things. It can influence how one culture learns the language of another culture. The overlap of communication networks is also influenced. Attributional confidence, which is known as the inverse of uncertainty, is another factor influenced by cultural similarity. Research indicates the more similar another culture is to yours the easier it is for you to learn that culture. Gudykunst's research also indicates that people ask more questions when they are culturally dissimilar and self-disclose more when they are culturally similar.
When you have competence in a second language it influences the strategies you use to reduce uncertainty. If you do not know the other person's language or culture, you will tend to use the uncertainty reduction strategies appropriate in your own culture. Knowing others' language will help you alter the strategies you use. Because cultural dissimilarities increase uncertainty, being aware of these dissimilarities will increase your attributional confidence. Research also indicates that second language competence increases individuals' ability to cope with uncertainty.