UNCERTAINTY AS A MOTIVATING VARIABLE.
DARTMOUTH COLL HANOVER N H
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An individual is uncertain when a situation elicits response alternatives no one of which is overwhelmingly dominant and his degree of uncertainty is a function both of the number of competing responses elicited by the situation and the relative response strength of the competing alternatives. Uncertainty of more than moderate degree is aversive. When uncertain an organism is motivated to behavior which in the past has been instrumental in reducing uncertainty. Responses which expose the organism to new information have a long history of association with attenuation of uncertainty and thus have a high probability of being evoked in uncertain situations. Since uncertainty functions as a drive and information intake is the primary means for reducing uncertainty, an increase in uncertainty should produce an increase in the strength of responses which facilitate information acquisition. Using several different means of manipulating uncertainty and several measures of the strength of information acquisition the studies reported strongly support this hypothesized relationship. This was true whether or not the information permitted selection of a response with some instrumental value, e.g., gaining a reward or avoiding a punishment. Author