William B. Gudykunst (1985) extended Berger and Calabrese’s (1975) uncertainty reduction theory to explain the reduction of uncertainty in intergroup encounters as the first step in developing anxiety/uncertainty management (AUM) theory. He developed a model of intergroup communication by integrating URT and social identity theory in several stages. Gudykunst and Hammer (1988) also developed a version of the theory that used uncertainty and anxiety to explain intercultural adjustment. This version contained 24 axioms. Uncertainty involves the inability to predict or explain others’ attitudes, behavior, and feelings. Anxiety involves feelings of being uneasy, tense, worried, or apprehensive.
At about the same time, Gudykunst (1988) included notions of intergroup anxiety into a general theory of effective interpersonal and intergroup communication. This version of the theory contained 13 axioms. Neither of the 1988 versions of the theory was designated AUM. According to Gudykunst, intercultural communication is one type of intergroup communication. He used the notion of the “stranger” as a central organizing concept. “Strangers” are defined as individuals who are present in a situation, but are not members of the ingroup.
Besides intergroup factors, anxiety, expectations, and outcomes were included in the theory. Gudykunst regarded anxiety as the fundamental problem with which all humans must cope, and he wrote that it is present anytime individuals communicate. To better understand either interpersonal or intergroup encounters, therefore, anxiety was incorporated into the theory. Regarding expectations, he also wrote that stereotypes and attitudes create expectations. Generally, he concluded that positive expectations reduce uncertainty and anxiety, whereas negative expectations increase uncertainty and anxiety. Pertaining to outcomes, Gudykunst argued that uncertainty reduction itself can be considered an outcome of communication. He noted that it is also a process. He defined effective communication as minimizing misunderstandings within the theoretical framework.
The Gudykunst (1988) version of the theory included axioms that addressed both effective communication and intercultural adjustment. Gudykunst (1990) applied the theory to diplomacy, a special case of intergroup communication. Gudykunst (1993) focused on anxiety and uncertainty management: for example, maintaining anxiety and uncertainty between minimum and maximum thresholds to make effective communication possible. And he integrated Langer’s notion of mindfulness as a moderating process between anxiety/uncertainty management and effective communication mindfulness. He used the label AUM for the first time in this publication. This version of the theory contained 49 axioms.
It was important for him that the 1993 version of the theory focused on interpersonal and intergroup communication competence. Unlike the 1988 version of the theory, the 1993 version of the theory was designed to be a practical theory. The change in focus from anxiety and uncertainty reduction to anxiety and uncertainty management, as well as focusing on practical application instead of just explaining effective communication, changed the fundamental nature of the theory.
The 1995 version of the theory contains 94 axioms (Gudykunst 1995). This effective communication version was written with respect to individuals communicating with strangers. The intercultural adjustment version of the theory, in contrast, was written with respect to strangers entering new cultures and interacting with host nationals. The 1995 version of the theory incorporated ethnic aspects of communicating with strangers and maintained the goal of being a practical theory. This version of the theory of interpersonal and intergroup communication effectiveness was later updated.
Gudykunst revised the intercultural adjustment version. In 1998 he outlined how it could be used to design intercultural adjustment training programs, and later updated it again. Bill Gudykunst’s legacy can be seen in the vast amount of empirical research that his writings have inspired in North America and Japan.
- Berger, C. R., & Calabrese, R. (1975). Some explorations in initial interactions and beyond: Toward a developmental theory of interpersonal communication. Human Communication Research, 1, 99–112.
- Gudykunst, W. B. (1985). A model of uncertainty reduction in intercultural encounters. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 4, 79–98.
- Gudykunst, W. B. (1988). Applying anxiety/uncertainty management (AUM) theory to intercultural adjustment training. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 22, 227–250.
- Gudykunst, W. B. (1990). Diplomacy: A special case of intergroup communication. In F. Korzenny & S. Ting-Toomey (eds.), Communicating for peace. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, pp. 19–39.
- Gudykunst, W. B. (1993). Toward a theory of effective interpersonal and intergroup communication: An anxiety/uncertainty management perspective. In R. L. Wiseman & J. Koester (eds.), Intercultural communication competence. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, pp. 33–71.
- Gudykunst, W. B. (1995). Anxiety/uncertainty management (AUM) theory: Current status. In R. L. Wiseman (ed.), Intercultural communication theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 8 –58.
- Gudykunst, W. B., & Hammer, M. R. (1988). Strangers and hosts. In Y. Kim & W. B. Gudykunst (eds.), Cross-cultural adaptation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, pp. 106–139.