Individual differences in uncertainty avoidance can predispose serenity or terror, tolerance or intolerance, and innovation or stagnation. We here define uncertainty avoidance and review key research findings on the topic.
Uncertainty Avoidance Defined
Norton (1975) defined uncertainty avoidance as “a tendency to perceive or interpret information marked by vague, incomplete, fragmented, multiple, probably, unstructured, uncertain, inconsistent, contrary, contradictory, or unclear meanings as actual or potential sources of psychological discomfort or threat” (p. 608). Later researchers expanded on this by identifying two key dimensions of uncertainty avoidance.
First, individuals can differ in what they initially classify as uncertain (Hirsch et al. 2016). Second, once an individual classifies a stimulus as uncertain, she/he can differ in the extent to which she/he believes the uncertainty is worth avoiding (Matsumoto et al. 2008). Stopa and Clark (2000) found that individuals high in...
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