Data and Information are the basis to gain knowledge. Understanding what and why a person is performing a certain act often raises curiosity. My relationship with my girlfriend has gone through an emotional turmoil and yet it always comes back to the ‘lovey-dovey’ relationship it had been before. Therefore by studying why a person as important as my girlfriend chooses to do something at a certain time, I want to reduce the uncertainty of the situation by gathering information beforehand thus applying it when the time comes.
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Information Acquisition is the name given to the process of gathering information about a specific situation. Companies might want to know what their competitors are doing thus they acquire information through legal yet sometimes unethical means. A presidential candidate may want to know about the election dates, self popularity, chances of winning etc. As an individual, information can be acquired to get a job in a firm, learn about a certain thing, reduce uncertainty for an unknown situation etc. Thus from examples given above information acquisition for interpersonal communication can be explained as methodology to learn about a situation, a means of uncertainty reduction and strategy to predict the outcome of a specific situation thus enabling a person to take strategic decisions (Benczúr, 2005).
Uncertainty reduction theorists have identified four general strategies people use to acquire information and reduce uncertainty. These strategies are passive observation, asking others, direct interaction and environmental structuring.
Being in the first semester of my university, I felt physically attracted to one particular girl in my Math class. To shy to approach her directly and have no such prior experience I felt at a loss. Also without any friends at that early stage I felt even more uncertain of the situation since there are a “number of possible alternative ways of behaving and believing when strangers meet” (Berger, 1975). Questions like ‘what would I say’, ‘would she even like me’ and ‘am I good enough for her’ continuously propped in my mind whenever I saw her. Though out that semester I assumed the role of a passive observer, catching her every move, yet making sure not to let her catch my glimpse. I learned about her eating habits, her likes and dislikes, time she spent at the university, what other classes she took. I felt amazed that I could learn so much only through observation. Berger (1979) explains this as a non-obtrusive process where “reactivity search, social comparison and dis-inhibition search” is undertaken to acquire information.
By the beginning of the second semester, I had managed to make some friends including befriending some of her friends as well. These friends provided me with welcome additional information about my prospective girlfriend. Cautiously moving towards my target, I gained valuable information that she was a friendly girl and would talk even to a stranger unless he would be a total ‘freak’. Although I knew I could now go up to her with some excuse and talk, I felt afraid whether she would like me or not. Berger (1979) describes this as an ‘Active Strategy’ where a person gains information about the target taking help of others.
My first breakthrough came at the end of the second semester when I talked to her for the first time. It was a chance interaction, unplanned in every sort. On the way to the cafeteria I found her friends buying some food but who were short of some cash. They invited me to their table on the pretense of wanting to talk to me, but in reality they wanted me to treat them. Seeing my chance to talk to her, I willingly paid the money and joined their table. There we all talked and I finally met my future girlfriend in person. Berger (1979) calls this face-to-face meeting a personal disclosure where tools such as interrogation and deception detection are used. We became friends and got to know each other better and finally decided to be committed. Berger and Calabrese (1975) describe this as an uncertainty reduction stage where initially demographic and attitudinal information is exchanged on topics of minimal significance. Then either of both parties decides whether to continue the relationship or not. If the decision is agreeable then meeting are held at personal level where conversations don’t follow a fixed pattern revealing intimate information. However, if the meetings are displeasing, then the relationship is terminated.
Using environmental assets, I gained information about her likes and dislikes. Sources like the setting of a place, amount of darkness in a room, friends she keeps, whether she likes etc. made me aware of her personality and closeness to nature. Berger (1979) explains that such environmental forces are utilized early in the interaction phase when minimum direct interaction is possible. Usually environment structuring is used passive observation or indirect communication for the purpose of information gathering.
The personal scenario explained above is truly in line with the observations made by Berger (1979). Information acquisition strategies that I used through my early stages of the relationship have been explained likewise in literature. However one research by Mongeau, Jacobsen & Donnerstein (2007) can prove extremely useful for future relationships. According to the research, college students and adults have different reasons to go out for dating. My girlfriend may have been going out with me only because she would want to have some friends or some sexual goals. While if I would go out with some single adult girl, she would most probably have an emphasis on a lifelong relationship.
However this information has shown me that being with my girlfriend for more than two years, her goals seem for a life-long relationship. This piece of information is extremely important for me as it has reduced my uncertainty about my future with my girlfriend.
Uncertainty is usually the reason why people opt to gather information using one or all sources they have. As people interact, they try to get to know each other. Being in a relationship is extremely difficult and uncertainty reduction in the relationship is a tool that is used often. According to the research, the nature of commitment may differ across age groups thus gaining information firsthand using various strategies is often utilized for this purpose. To beat the curiosity of why would my girlfriend is still interested in me I also made use of these strategies. The conclusion I have reached through this research is that my girlfriend is genuinely interested in me and wants a lifelong relationship like I do.
Berger, C.R. (1975). “Proactive and retroactive attributional processes in interpersonal communication.” Human Communication Research.
Berger, C.R., & R. Calabrese (1975). “Some exploration in initial interactions and beyond: toward a developmental theory of interpersonal communication.” Human Communication Research.
Berger, C.R. (1979). “Beyond initial interaction.” Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell.
David Benczúr (2005). Environmental scanning: how developed is information acquisition in Western European companies? Vol. 11 No. 1, 2005 Information Research Electronic Journal