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Dialectical Tensions in Task Groups

Graphical Representation of the Theory

Explanation of Theory:
Dialectical Tensions - The constant struggle that a group member will go through during the four stages (entering, encountering, engaging, and ending) of group life.  It is the product of two ideas being equally valid when considered alone, but contradictory when paired.

Lawrence Frey and Kevin Barge


Primary Article:
 Frey, L.R., Barge, J. K. (1998). Managing group life: Communication in decision-making groups. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, MA.

Individual Interpretations:
Dialetical tensions explains the tensions that a group member will have during the four different stages of group life.  The member it torn because both ideas are equally valid, but at the same time they contradict each other.  It explains the constant struggle of what a group member will go through.

Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Being a Scientific theory the following metatheoretical assumption should be advanced.

Ontological Assumptions:
Scientific research suggest that human nature is deterministic.  Humans do 
not have control what they do.

Epistemological Assumptions:
Scientific research suggests that there is one truth, or big T truth.

Axiological Assumptions:
Research should not be value laden.  Research offers objective results.

Being a Scientific theory it should be critiqued using Chaffee & Berger's criteria.

Explanatory Power - Dialectical Tensions offers an explanation of what groups members will do when they are in a specific state of group life.

Predictive Power - Dialectical Tensions suggests that all members of work groups will go through this constant tension during group life.

Parsimony - Dialectical Tensions is very simple in saying that a group member will be torn between two oppositions and will have to negotiate them as a member.

Falsifiablity - Dialectical Tensions is hard to test because group members may be reluctant in offering their true feelings about the group. 

Internal Consistency - Dialectical Tensions is consistent with current research that suggests how we will interact with group members and the norms that are developed.

Heuristic Provocativeness - It is hard to offer any further explanations on this theory because a group member will feel these senses of tensions or they won't.  However a research could further the theory offering different settings in which tensions would occur.

Organizing Power - Dialectical Tensions does organize the theory very well staying with the stages of group life.  Everyone can see how that works.

Ideas and Implications:
A group member will face a constant struggle while in the group.  The struggles will change as the member moves from stage to stage.  It is important to understand these tensions so that group members will know how to deal with these fellings when they arise.

Example:  An individual enters a group and is given two seperate ideas for how to perform a certain task by two different people.  While both task instructions sound like logical and successful approaches to the task when mentioned alone, they are not a logical fit when used together.  The new individual must contend with how to approach these group members throughout the lifetime of the group or until a solution is made.

Relevant Research:

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

     Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.  N/A

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. N/A

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. N/A

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. N/A

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. N/A

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A