Problematic integration (PI) theory grew out of dissatisfaction with expectancy-value theories of persuasion and action and uses and gratifications models of audience motivation. These and related theories posit that meaning and action are founded on judgments of probability (e.g., that an act would have one or another consequence) and value (e.g., value of the consequence for the actor). Austin Babrow noticed that these models under-theorized health communication phenomena: when people are uncertain, ambivalent, and wants and wishes conflict with expectations.

Building on these insights and a broad survey of literature, Babrow argued that mind, meaning, and action arise out of two basic orientations. In one, people form meanings by associating objects of thought (things, people, and ideas with attributes; antecedents, causes, and acts with consequents). ...

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