The Expression of Uncertainty Reduction and Social Learning Theories in the TV Show The Blacklist

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Investigation is the action of investigating something or someone; formal or systematic examination or research. Criminal investigation is an applied science that includes the investigation of concrete evidence that are to advise criminal preliminaries. A total criminal investigation can incorporate interrogations, searching, cross examinations, evidence collecting and safeguarding, and different strategies for investigation. One of the biggest organizations known for investigating is none other than the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the residential knowledge and security administration of the United States and its key federal law enforcement agency. The FBI has isolated its investigations into various programs, such as organized crime/drugs, foreign counterintelligence, white-collar crime, cyber-crime, public corruption, civil rights, domestic and international terrorism, organized crime/drugs, white-collar crime, violent crimes and major offenders, and applicant matters. The Blacklist is an American crime thriller television series that centers on the FBI and a blacklist. The term “blacklist” is described as a list of people or things that are regarded as unacceptable or untrustworthy and should be excluded or avoided.

New FBI profiler, Elizabeth Keen, has her life changed completely when a secretive criminal, Raymond Reddington, who has evaded imprisonment for a considerable length of time, hands himself over and demands talking just to her. Raymond 'Red' Reddington, a previous US Naval Intelligence official who had vanished twenty years sooner just to become one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, gives up himself to FBI Assistant Director Harold Cooper at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C... Taken to a FBI 'dark site', Reddington claims he wishes to assist the FBI with finding and catching the criminals that he partnered with during his twenty year venture. Criminals that are so hazardous and insidious that the United States government is uninformed of their very presence.


The Blacklist captures the audiences with telling the story of Elizabeth Keen all the while unraveling Reddington’s relationship to her. This show is loaded up with drama of the preferences usually found in crime television shows. It is imperative to analyze how the show develops a relationship with two complete strangers to one of the closest knit bond. Two theories that best expresses this relationship is the uncertainty reduction theory and the social learning theory. This study centers on Reddington and Elizabeth’s relationship and how the theories support the development of their relationship. Red's relationship with Elizabeth is complicated. The scenes between the two of them are mostly strong, and yet I don't really think The Blacklist is asking us to trust Red, or anyone (Cory Barker, 2013). What’s his agenda, you ask? Good question. Red doles out answers in tiny little pieces, as criminal masterminds tend to do (Matt Zoller Seitz, 2013). This paper will prove how Reddington’s personality influences Keen heavily, even though, she disapproves of his actions. Since Reddington has a large impact on Keen, it is essential to assess the substance inside their relationship, also the conceivable impacts that they have on each other.

Theoretical Framework

Relationship is defined as the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected. Uncertainty Reduction Theory states that when strangers meet, their primary goal is to reduce levels of uncertainty. Uncertainty means being uncertain of how to carry on (or how the other individual will act), and uncertain of what to think about the other individual. For instance, on the off chance that they like the individual or don't like the individual. As indicated by this theory, they will utilize communication to lessen this uncertainty. The key assumption is that uncertainty makes cognitive uneasiness, which individuals will attempt to lessen. Uncertainty reduction happens mainly by questioning new friends trying to assemble data about them. This data would then be able to be utilized to anticipate individuals' conduct, or the result of beginning a relationship with them. Information Seeking happens when people wish to find out about one another. Information can be gotten inactively through observation or actively through discussion. Self-Disclosure is when Individuals eagerly unveil data about themselves to diminish uncertainty in the other individual, in this way encouraging them to communicate straightforwardly. The theory suggest that people who are alike or share interests will feel less uncertain about one another and accomplish communication closeness all the more rapidly. Different people experience more significant levels of uncertainty. Feelings of acceptance and preference between people in like manner accelerate the uncertainty-reduction process. Sentiments of dislike weakens relationship formation.

Social is defined as, relating to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations. It is also the seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious. Social Learning Theory argues that people learn from each other through observing, imitating, and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Social learning theory clarifies how human conduct can be formed by consistent reciprocal interaction between intellectual, social, and environmental impacts. So as to imitate an observed behavior, spectators must have the option to recall highlights of the behavior. This procedure is affected by observer qualities (cognitive capabilities, cognitive rehearsal) and event attributes (complexity). The cognitive procedures underlying retention are depicted by Bandura as visual and verbal, where verbal portrayals of models are utilized in more complex scenarios. By reproduction, Bandura alludes not to the propagation of the model however its usage. This requires a level of cognitive ability, and may now and again require sensorimotor capabilities.

Reproduction can be troublesome in light of the fact that on account of behaviors that are strengthened through self-perception, it very well may be hard to watch behavior well. This can require the contribution of others to give self-amending input. More studies on feedback support this thought by proposing effective feedback, which would help with observation and amendment improves the performance on members on task. The decision to reproduce (or abstain from recreating) an observed behavior is reliant on the motivations and expectations of the observer, including foreseen consequences and internal standards. Bandura's description of inspiration is also in a general sense based on environmental and thus social factors, since persuasive factors are driven by the functional value of various behaviors in a given situation.

Social Learning Theory has been utilized to clarify the rise and support of deviant behavior, particularly aggression. Criminologists Ronald Akers and Robert Burgess incorporated the standards of Social Learning Theory and operant molding with Edwin Sutherland's Differential Association Theory to make an extensive theory of criminal behavior.[24][25] Burgess and Akers underscored that criminal behavior is found out in both social and nonsocial circumstances through combinations of direct reinforcement, vicarious support, explicit instruction, and perception. Both the likelihood of being presented to specific behaviors and the nature of the reinforcement are subject to group norms.

Literature Review

The journey to basically comprehending their relationship starts with addressing why Reddington came into Agent Keen’s life, and how it affects both of them. Their relationship has been through trials, triumphs, and it’s been tested through time. Be that as it may, their journey starts with veritably contextualizing the making of their bond. This talk is trailed by tending to the development of their relation and challenged to depict their identities and scholastic grant. The talk shifts to tending to how Agent Keen’s personality changes overtime with getting to know Reddington. The mixture of reducing uncertainty with an overview of social learning allows for answers to the following research questions;

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Research Question 1: How does Blacklist tie into Social Learning Theory?

Research Question 2: In what ways does the Blacklist express Uncertainty Reduction Theory?


The Blacklist is an American crime thriller TV series that spotlights Raymond 'Red' Reddington, a previous U.S. Naval force official turned criminal, who deliberately gives up to the FBI in the wake of evading being caught. He tells the FBI that he has a list of the most notorious criminals on the planet that he has arranged throughout the years, even ones the FBI hasn’t heard of and is willing to give them up in return for immunity from prosecution. He calls them the ‘The Blacklist', hence the show’s title. Although, he's willing to spill the beans he has one exception. He demands working solely with a new FBI profiler by the name of Elizabeth Keen. Everyone is unaware and curious as to why her specifically. Elizabeth claims to have no relations with Reddington to her knowledge.

In season 1, a lot of people, even people who aren’t directly involved with them wonder and search for answers. The first season presents Raymond Reddington, Elizabeth 'Liz' Keen and the individuals from the Task Force, a multiagency law enforcement devoted to chasing down Reddington. He will not clarify why Liz must be included. The Reddington Task Force, led by Assistant Director Harold Cooper, turns into the lead law enforcement organization liable for catching or slaughtering the individuals from the Blacklist at Reddington's behest; normally to Red's advantage, which causes clashes especially for Special Agent Donald Ressler, who was initially tasked with catching Reddington. The season also presents antagonist Milos Kirchoff, AKA Berlin, a previous Russian KGB officer with a longstanding conflict with Reddington. KGB which is translated in English as Committee for State Security, was the main security agency for the Soviet Union from 1954 until its break-up in 1991, becomes a very vital part in this show. A significant subplot for the season is Elizabeth Keen's revelation that her better half Tom Keen, a schoolteacher as far as everyone knows, is really a secretive operative with an obscure motivation and Liz's endeavors to find who he really is and who sent him. A second subplot includes The Cabal, a top secret multinational group that holds places of impact in government and business, and their interests in Reddington's activities. The Cabal is generally represented by Alan Fitch, the Deputy Director of National Intelligence, who attempts to keep up a common association with Reddington regardless of the Cabal's misgivings while attempting to figure out what Reddington really knows.


In this analysis, I will analyze similar episodes that correlate for both the uncertainty reduction theory and social learning theory.

Throughout the show there’s a lingering wonder if Reddington is actually Elizabeth’s father or not.

“My colleagues call me sir. They think I’m a bitch. Like most kids who raised themselves, I can display narcissistic behavior. I can be withdrawn, disconnected. Uh... I have a deep yearning to understand and relate to the criminal mind. I’m board certified in forensic psychology and yet, I operate under the delusion that I can rewrite my past by having kids of my own,” said by Elizabeth Keen.

In season 1, episode 1 Elizabeth was brought in by the FBI to be questioned. What stood out in this particular scene was she was asked to profile herself. As mentioned above, uncertainty reduction theory indicates that people will “utilize communication to lessen this uncertainty. Uncertainty reduction happens mainly by questioning new friends trying to assemble data about them. This data would then be able to be utilized to anticipate individuals' conduct, or the result of beginning a relationship with them.” When Elizabeth meets Reddington for the first time he speaks to her as if he has always known her. Reddington says personal things about her like the change of her hair color, undisclosed information about her parents, and her upbringing. He uses this method to show Elizabeth that he knows her.

To further enclose Elizabeth’s interest to get to know him, he starts utilizing cases. The first case they work on is about a U.S General’s daughter getting kidnapped. Solving this case becomes difficult for Elizabeth until Reddington tells her that she has to think like a criminal to better understand it. They complement each other’s sentences and come up with a man named Zamani who conjures up a plan to get payback for his family because the U.S general poisoned his village and killed his family.

Reddington keeps up with the concept that he will only talk to Keen, which forces her to continue to talk to him. He continues to push her with the idea that he knows all about her. He tries to make her feel comfortable by comparing both of their lives together, making her feel like she’s not alone. He claims that criminals are notorious liars and that he’s a criminal, yet everything he has told her so far has transpired. In season 1, episode 2 he tells Keen that he knows the truth about her husband, which fascinates her even more to get closer to him. Slowly but surely he reduces the uncertainty between them by acknowledging his knowledge of her and how she is very important. Around this time, she’s unsure about a lot of things going on in her life but with Reddington she’s unwillingly trusting him gradually. Although, he is reducing uncertainty with Keen, he is still creating a relationship that she isn’t so fond of.

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