In cross-cultural psychology, uncertainty avoidance
is a society's tolerance
for uncertainty and ambiguity
. It reflects the extent to which members of a society attempt to cope
by minimizing uncertainty. Uncertainty avoidance is one of five key qualities or dimensions
measured by the researchers who developed the Hofstede model of cultural dimensions to quantify cultural differences across international lines and better understand why some ideas and business practices work better in some countries than in others. According to the theory's framework, the dimensions are only applicable to a society as a whole, not for each individual in the society.
The uncertainty avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which a typical person in a society feels uncomfortable with a sense of uncertainty and ambiguity. The fundamental issue here is how a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let
it happen? Countries exhibiting strong uncertainty avoidance index (UAI) maintain rigid codes of belief and behavior and are intolerant of unorthodox behavior and ideas. Weak UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude
in which practice counts
more than principles.
People in cultures with high uncertainty avoidance tend to be more rational
. They try to minimize the occurrence
and unusual circumstances and to proceed
with careful changes step by step by planning and by implementing rules, laws and regulations. In contrast, low uncertainty avoidance cultures accept and feel comfortable in unstructured situations or changeable environments and try to have as few rules as possible. People in these cultures tend to be more pragmatic
, they are more tolerant of change.