Symbolic-Convergence Theory

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  • Topic: Social groups, Social group
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Maria Lugo
4-20-11
Comm.1302
Symbolic-Convergence Theory
When a group of individuals have similar thoughts about a certain topic in a group conversation, they can relate to similar issues, experiences, and situations. This phenomenon has a term called symbolic convergence theory, developed by Ernest Bormann, John Cragan, and Donald Shields This theory has different levels of communication, which enhance the relationships between people. The symbolic-convergence theory is also known as the fantasy-theme analysis, which can be created in small groups or interaction between two people, thus creating a similar perspective. This theory states that individuals tend to believe certain things or think a certain way because their point of view has been molded by society. The symbolic convergence theory has different concepts that can be applied effectively to generate articulate conversations.

Ernest Bormann's Symbolic Convergence Theory illustrated a method of looking at a group interaction and cohesiveness. According to “Bormann’s Symbolic Convergence Theory,” by Denise Young she stated that this theory meets the scientific standards of explanation of the outcome, relative simplicity, and practical effectiveness. But it also meets the humanistic standards considering the community agreement and the reform of society. It brings the group together through symbolic interaction and can continue expanding from one person to the next one. Bormann's theory provides a straightforward strategy of examining the relationship of group membership.

One of the concepts that contribute with the symbolic convergence theory is fantasy themes. They take a small role in the composition of rhetorical visions, which are larger, longer, and more complex stories. Rhetorical visions are related points of view of the past, present, and the future. Fantasy themes are not considered fictitious stories, but rather experiences that uncover sentiments. They are an important key in persuasion. They are created within small groups and expand their way out from person to person to create a shared worldview. For example, in a family reunion people talk about their children and experiences they had with their spouse, and the other relatives might have experienced the same and that’s what unites them and share a worldview between them. However, unity cannot always be accomplished, either because certain individuals cannot relate to the fantasy theme or common ground has not been established.

According to the book, “Theories of Human Communication,” by Stephen W. Littlejohn and Karen A. Foss stated that fantasy themes and rhetorical visions, consist of characters, plot line, scenes, and sanctioning agent. Characters are the people that are playing the big role such as heroes, villains, or other individuals in general. The plot line would be the development of the story, such as what is the purpose of the story being told. The scenes would be the setting and the location in which the story took place. Finally, the sanctioning agent is a source that helps the person listening to the story believable. For instance, a person talking about their experience at church, that the priest was preaching in front of everyone with a sense of passion. The character would be the priest, the plot line would be preaching to the group of people, the scenes is the small church and the sanctioning agent is the priest because he is reading off the bible, in which the bible gives off credibility to the story.

On the other hand we have the rhetorical visions, which unlike fantasy themes, can be reoccurring, but abbreviated to simple phrases or words that can act as triggers for a particular group. The triggers are known as symbolic cues, and they help start certain stories or what we call inside jokes. For example, a group of friends that watch Finding Nemo and a week later they re-enact a scene in front of someone who has seen the film at a different time as them, then the...
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