Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

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Erich Fromm once said “the quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” For some, this quote is unmistakably true, impelling them to great discoveries of nature and the mind. For others, uncertainty is the very essence of confusion and ambiguity, offering nothing more than reason to retreat to more predictable and certain times. In this chapter, we explore the theory of uncertainty orientation as related to cognition and cognitive processes, including research that was conducted in Canada, Japan, and China. First, we discuss the characteristic uncertainty selfregulation styles that distinguish uncertainty-oriented individuals from certainty-oriented individuals. Next, we discuss the uncertainty orientation framework which integrates one’s uncertainty self-regulation style, the uncertainty present in the situation, and one’s characteristic motivations (e.g., achievement motivations) to predict performance outcomes in the related motivation domain. After discussing these basic tenants of our framework, we examine some of the cross-cultural research that has directly tested the predictions of the theory of uncertainty orientation. Concluding, we contrast our conceptualization of culture with how culture is commonly conceived in cross-cultural research.

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