Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This dissertation examined the view that certainty- and uncertainty-oriented individuals are individuals for whom certainty and uncertainty, respectively, are cognitively relevant (Sorrentino, Short, & Raynor, in press). Study 1 examined whether certainty-related behavioral descriptions about another were better remembered by certainty-oriented subjects than uncertainty-oriented subjects, as a construct accessibility model of differences in the relative accessibility of certainty- and uncertainty-related constructs would predict (e.g., Higgins & King, 1981). Distortions of evaluatively ambiguous and evaluatively unambiguous descriptions were also examined. The data supported a cognitive structural view of individual differences in uncertainty orientation in terms of knowledge structures based on past experience (or schemata) which contain both certainty- and uncertainty-related information that is both differentially accessible and differentially evaluated by certainty- and uncertainty-oriented individuals. For example, uncertainty-oriented subjects are seen as having knowledge structures composed of a large amount of positively-tagged, uncertainty-related information and a smaller amount of certainty-related information that is negatively-tagged or viewed in a negative manner. A bipolar model of schemata in the uncertainty-certainty domain therefore was proposed to account for the results of Study 1.;A second study examined the relative utility of two cognitive structural views of differences in uncertainty orientation: one in terms of differences in integrative complexity (Schroder, Driver, & Streufert, 1967) and the other in terms of differences in self-schemata (Markus, 1977). Compared to low "need" for uncertainty individuals, high scorers in "need" for uncertainty tended to have more highly differentiated cognitive structures and to display better overall memory for information about another. Uncertainty-oriented individuals had better relative memory than certainty-oriented individuals for accessible versus inaccessible behavioral descriptions about another over time, but the reverse was found on an immediate recall measure. A general processing model incorporating both the integrative complexity and self-schemata approaches was proposed to account for the observed relations between uncertainty orientation, "need" for uncertainty, degree of cognitive structure in the interpersonal domain, and the processing of interpersonal information. In summary, both studies supported a cognitive structural view of differences in uncertainty orientation and revealed that this variable has important effects on the processing and remembrance of information about others.



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