Theory of Motivated Information Management

Theory of Motivated Information Management or TMIM , is a social-psychological framework that examines the relationship between information management and uncertainty . The theory posits That Individuals are “motivated to manage Their uncertainty levels When They Perceive a discrepancy entre les level of uncertainty They Have about year end and the significant level of uncertainty They Want” (Guerrero et al., P. 83). [1] In other words, someone may be uncertain about an important issue but decides not to engage or seek information because they are comfortable with that state. [2]

This psychological theory, like many others, is applied in communication , specifically in the subfields of interpersonal and human communication .


Theory of Motivated Information Management

TMIM is a relatively new and developing theory . It was first proposed in 2004 by Walid Afifi and Judith Weiner through their article, “Toward a Theory of Motivated Information Management”. [3] A revision to the theory was put forth by Walid Afifi and Christopher Morse in 2009.

TMIM was developed for a person ‘active’ information management efforts in interpersonal communication channels. [4] The framework shares close ties to Brashers ‘ uncertainty management theory , Babrow’s problematic integration theory , Johnson & Meischkes’ comprehensive model of information seeking (CMIS) and Bandura’s social cognitive theory . [3] The revision also relies on Lazarus’ appraisal theory of emotions. [5] TMIM stemmed out of a desire to bring together ideas and address limitations of existing frameworks on uncertainty. More specifically, it emphasizes the role played by efficacy beliefs, Explicitly highlights the role played by the information provider in uncertainty management interactions, and Improves communication research about uncertainty management decisions. [5]


TMIM can be defined as a two-stage process that information providers go through in deciding what, if any, information to provide . [6]

TMIM’s three-phase process consists of the interpreting, evaluation, and decision-making stages and the two-stage process is broken down by examining the role of the information seeker and information provider.


Process for the Information Seeker

Interpretation Phase

The first phase involves an assessment of uncertainty . According to TMIM, individuals experience uncertainty when they feel that they can not predict what happens with a particular issue or in a given situation. The difference between the amount of uncertainty and the amount of uncertainty that it desires to have is uncertainty discrepancy. [3] It serves as the motivation factor for the information seeking process.

TMIM originally proposed that uncertainty discrepancy caused anxiety due to a persons’ need for a balance between their desired and actual states of uncertainty. [6] The revised version, however, proposes that the discrepancy can create emotions other than anxiety, including shame, guilt or anger, among others. [5] Nevertheless, the emotion felt influences, and is followed by, an evaluation.

Evaluation Phase

The evaluation phase focuses on mediation. It is used to make the effect of the emotion by evaluating the expectations about the outcomes of an information search and the perceived abilities to gain the sought after. [3] In other words, the individual weighs whether or not to seek additional information. This involves two general considerations: [7]

  1. Outcome expectancy – individuals assess the pros and cons. (Will the expected outcome be positive or negative?)
  2. Evaluate assessments – individuals decide whether they are able to gather the information needed to manage their uncertainty discrepancy and then actually cope with it. (Will the expected outcome be too much to handle or manageable?)

These two conditions will determine how someone seeks information. According to TMIM, individuals who experience feelings of efficacy in order to engage in task or hand. [6] Unlikely Conceptualizations the broad efficacy of reconnu by the comprehensive model of information seeking (CMIS), the theory Argues three very specific efficacy perceptions That are uniquely relevant to interpersonal communication episodes: [5]

  1. Communication efficiency – An individuals’ perception that they have the communication skills to successfully complete the task at hand.
  2. Coping efficacy – An individuals’ belief that they can or can not cope with what information they could discover from seeking.
  3. Target efficacy – consist of two distinct components: target ability and target willingness. Thus, this is based on an individuals’ perception of the target person’s ability and willingness to give them information that will reduce their uncertainty discrepancy.

The theory argues that outcome expectancy, which is an individuals’ assessments of the benefits and costs of information seeking , impact their efficacy judgments. [7] However, they have little direct impact on their decision to seek information. [5] In other words, TMIM assigns efficacy as the primary direct predictor of that decision.

The Decision Phase

The decision is made to decide whether or not to engage information. TMIM proposed three ways of doing so:

1. Seek Relevant information:

Several studies have found that the most important of these are the following. [3] TMIM’s image of information managers is consistent with these findings. However, anxiety reduction is unlikely, or is likely to be unproductive, they will likely resort to other strategies. [3]

2. Avoid Relevant information:

Rather than seeking information. TMIM hypothesizes that individuals are most likely to avoid information if they consider information risky due to the outcome, efficacy beliefs or both. [5] Some people may also avoid situations or people who may offer information. This response to the ‘active avoidance’ and essentially, the individual decides that “the reduction of the uncertainty related to anxiety is likely to be more damaging than beneficial”. [3]

3. Cognitive reappraisal :

According to TMIM, individuals can also reduce the anxiety or emotion that activates the need for uncertainty management by changing their mindset (cognitive alteration). [3] Therefore, the individual reappraises “the perceived level of issue importance, the desired level of uncertainty.” [5]

Process for Information Provider

Model of TMIM Predictions

TMIM highlights the role of the target-information provider. It assesses the impact of how much information the target-provider would give and how they do so. The theory argues that the provider goes through similar evaluation and decision phases as the information seeker. [5] The provider considers the prospect and after-effect of the outcome assessment and their efficacy to do so. However, the efficacy perceptions are tailored to the provider:

  1. Communication efficiency – Is the provider confident in their skills to competently provide the information?
  2. Coping effectiveness – Can the provider cope with the consequences of providing the information?
  3. Target efficacy – Is the seeker able and willing to manage the provided information?

These outcomes and assessments help the provider choose whether to provide information to the seeker or not. During the decision phase, the provider also gets to determine how and in what way to convey the sought after after information. For example, the information provider can decide to answer a face-to-face or by email.


Several studies have successfully tested TMIM. Specifically, the theoreticians have the ability to predict whether or not they will be able to talk to their parents about their parents’ relationship (2006). ), And those who are children of their parents who are eldercare preferences (2011), among other issues. In all these cases, the theory has favorable results about its utility to predict individuals’ information management decisions, but also experienced some limitations.

See also

  • Information Management
  • Personal information management
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Efficacy
  • Anxiety / Uncertainty management


  1. Jump up^ Guerrero, Laura (2011). Close Encounters: Communication in Relationships . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. pp. 83-85.
  2. Jump up^ Guerrero; et al. (2011). Close Encounters: Communication in Relationships . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. pp. 83-85.
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h Afifi &, W .; Weiner, J. (2004). “Toward a Theory of Motivated Information Management”. International Communication Association . 14 (2): 167-190. Doi : 10.1093 / ct / 14.2.167 .
  4. Jump up^ Afifi, W. &; Weiner, J. (2006). “Seeking Information About Sexual Health: Applying the Theory of Motivated Information Management”. International Communication Association . 32 : 35-57. Doi : 10.1111 / j.1468-2958.2006.00002.x .
  5. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h Afifi, WA (2009). “In Wilson, S. & Smith, S. (Eds)”. New Directions in Interpersonal Communication . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE: 94-114.
  6. ^ Jump up to:a b c Theory of Motivated Information Management (Encyclopedia of Communication Theory ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. 2009.
  7. ^ Jump up to:a b Afifi, W. & Fowler, C. (2011). “Applying the Theory of Motivated Information to Adult Children’s Discussions of Caregiving with New Parents”. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships . 28 (4): 507-535. Doi : 10.1177 / 0265407510384896 .