Intolerance of uncertainty and information-seeking behavior: Experimental manipulation of threat relevance

Behav Res Ther. 2022 Jul;154:104125. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2022.104125. Epub 2022 May 20.


Prospective intolerance of uncertainty (IU) involves fear and anxiety in anticipation of future uncertainty and is especially related to worry and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Individuals high in IU appraise uncertain situations as threatening and thus may engage in excessive information-seeking behavior to decrease uncertainty. This study aimed to examine the links between prospective IU and information-seeking. Participants (N = 174) high and low in prospective IU completed an ostensible aptitude test (threat stimulus), which was supposedly either excellent (high relevance condition) or poor (low relevance condition) at predicting future outcomes. Thus, the test itself presented an immediate threat, and the awaited test results generated uncertainty. Following the relevance manipulation, participants were given the opportunity to engage in information-seeking behavior by asking questions about the ostensible test and by requesting feedback about the test results. Results indicated that in the high-relevance condition, individuals high and low in IU evidenced similar levels of information-seeking behavior. Conversely, in the low-relevance condition, individuals low in IU evidenced less information-seeking than did individuals high in IU. Furthermore, cognitive appraisals of ambiguous situations were associated with the extent of information-seeking behavior. The implications of these findings for the treatment of GAD are discussed.

Keywords: Ambiguity appraisal; Generalized anxiety disorder; Information-seeking behavior; Worry; intolerance of uncertainty.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders* / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Uncertainty