The Evolution of the Human Brains and the Uncertainty Reduction Theory
How it works
Human brains have evolved to recognize patterns. The Uncertainty Reduction Theory suggests that people tend to gather information about others to lessen uncertainty about them. This uncertainty is not only common when meeting new people, but it also persists in all types of new situations. It is crucial to our survival to continually assess the environment and threats, whether they are real or imagined. The Uncertainty Reduction Theory provides us with guidance on how and why we react to new situations.
The Uncertainty Reduction Theory can be traced back to our evolutionary past when we needed to assess the threat level of potential predators and detect their presence. “Heider’s notion that man seeks to ‘make sense’ out of events he perceives in his environment,” encapsulates Neil deGrasse Tyson’s explanation of why human brains tend to create patterns (Craig and Muller, 2007, p. 327). The argument is that our ancestors, constantly under the threat of predators, would sometimes find themselves in situations where there might or might not be a predator lurking in the bushes or tall grass. Gazing at a tree, your brain naturally creates patterns among the leaves and branches, enabling you to visualize shapes that might resemble a lion, a human face, or a triangle. In reality, there is no lion; it’s just the way the tree is shaped, or there actually is a lion lurking. The pattern-creators who envisioned the lion, whether there was a predator or not, would take flight and survive. Those that didn’t perceive the patterns would either survive (if there was nothing there) or be killed (if there indeed was a lion lurking). In a sort of Pascal’s wager, those who evolved brains to create patterns, taking no chances on their livelihood, survived.
This evolutionary pressure to “make sense” of our environment or create patterns to assess threat levels can be adjusted to interpersonal communication among species individuals. Humans, capable of verbal communication through language, know that it is the ideal method for determining the threat level of an individual or group after evaluating body language. Finding certainty in the uncertainty of whether there’s a lion in the bushes, or if a person is a potential friend or foe, is essential for survival. Interpersonal communicative behavior serves as the medium through which uncertainty is converted into certainty.
Survival depends on awareness and our constant ability to survey. It is optimum behavior to gather as much information as possible when new people or situations arise. Gathering information is vital to making ideal decisions. Decision making becomes effortless when one is equipped with as much information as possible.