Vaughan’s Vocabulary

I’ve been writing about interpersonal communication theories. Austin Babrow and Katie Striley point out that problematic integration theory describes the communicative creation and experience of uncertainty as part of a broader perspective on challenges of belief and desire.

Babrow, who developed PI theory, identified common forms of problematic integration. We experience uncertainty about something good or bad; for example, unsure if a job opportunity will be as great as it appears. You may have inconsistent or diverging expectations and desires; for example, you think it’s unlikely you’ll be hired for a desirable job. You might feel ambivalence about what you want; for example, “I’ll have to move far from loved ones to take this great job.” Or, you might have impossible desires; for example, “I really don’t have what it takes for this job.”

Stephen Littlejohn and Karen Foss say that Babrow’s theory rests on three propositions. There’s a tendency to align your expectations (what you think will happen) and your evaluations (what you want to happen). Second, integrating expectations and evaluations can be problematic. Third, problematic integration stems from communication and is managed through communication.

My quiz has words that identify four conditions of problematic integration.

[1.] divergence (di-VUR-gents)

A. a drawing apart (as of lines extending from a common center)

B. acquiescence

C. proving that a hypothesis is false

D. a propensity to be polemical

Problematic integration can happen under the condition of divergence between an expectation and an evaluation; i.e., your evaluation and expectation do not match.

No. 1 is A (definition came from Merriam-Webster).


[2.] ambiguity (am-be-GYOO-uh-tee)

A. doubtfulness or uncertainty of meaning or intention

B. an unclear, indefinite, or equivocal word, expression or meaning

C. positivity

D. an impractical analogy


[3.] ambivalence (am-BIV-uh-lunce)

A. officiousness

B. adroitness

C. omniscience

D. uncertainty or fluctuation, especially when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two conflicting things

The second condition of PI is ambiguity, or lack of clarity about what to expect. No. 2 is A and B (definitions came from

The third condition is ambivalence, or contradictory evaluations. D is correct.


[4.] impracticability (im-PRAK-ti-kuh-bil-uh-tee)

A. the condition of uncertainty

B. when a hypothesis is tested

C. the condition in which something isn’t capable of being put into practice

D. All of the above

The fourth condition of PI is impossibility or impracticability. No. 4 is C (my definition).

Editor’s Note: Don R. Vaughan, Ph.D., is the pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church near Eupora and is on the faculty of East Mississippi Community College, Golden Triangle Campus. Contact him at