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Fantasy Theme Analysis ( Symbolic Convergence Theory)

Explanation of Theory:

Fantasy Theme Analysis is a method used by groups to intensify the group dynamic based on a communication that allows information sharing regarding issues relating to the group.   

Theorists: Ernest Bormann

Date: 1992

Primary Article: Ernest Bormann, "Fantasy Theme Analysis and Rhetorical Theory," in the Rhetoric of Western Thought, 5th ed., James Golden, Goodwin Berquist,
and William Coleman (eds.), Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992, pp. 365-384.

Individual Interpretations:    When a group comes together, attention must be paid to the group's social climate. As the theory suggests, this leads to a more productive group thatnot only achieves cohesion socially, but also productivity is heightened. This cohesion is gained by the group willingness to discuss outside issues andsituations to give the group a sense of comfort and certainty about the other group members. This eventually leads to the "fantasy chain reaction, which gives the group conversation an upbeat tempo.

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

Ontological Assumptions: Fantasy Theme provides one "T" truth due to the one outcome for this event of discussion concerning outside activities and group hopes.
Epistemological Assumptions: There is a great deal of determinism in Bormann's theory- that all group members who disclose information outside of the group will increase the group climate whether it was their intention to do so or not. 
Axiological Assumptions: This theory is value laden in its assumption. 

Critique: Bormann's Fantasy Theme Analysis is a very insightful theory that groups can use as a template for how they function in the early stages of their experience as a group or team. It also contests the notion that task maintenence roles should be first and foremost. Fantasy Theme Analysis suggests that for these two roles (task and maintenence) to function, they must be equally regarded and tended to.

Explanatory Power -  The explanatory power of Bormannís theory is very strong. There is a very detailed process that a
group must undergo in order to achieve the fantasy chain reaction, heightening the amount of group participation in the

Predictive Power - Bormann states that if the group collectively shares information about each other and the direction of
the group, then group communication will be much more effective. 

Parsimony -  This is a very understandable theory that is not quite simplistic, yet it is simple enough to be expounded
upon, built upon, and effective. 

Falsifiablity -  Bormann's Fantasy Theme Analysis is very easily tested through observation.

InternalConsistency -  The internal logic in Bormann's theory is very cohesive and every detail connects with the overall
meaning of the theory. 

Heuristic Provocativeness -  Fantasy Theme Analysis generates questions for further research on groups and the way
disclosing information about life outside the group connects the group and increases the overall group climate.

Organizing Power -  Bormann;s theory is very organized and fits with already existing knowledge regarding groups and group

Ideas and Implications:
Bormann's Fantasy Theme Analysis is a very useful theory because it explains how groups can improve the quality of the
group by merely sharing information about each other that extends beyond the classroom or the organization. 

Example:Group A is a very cohesive group. Every class period they first tend to the maintenance roles, explaining what each member did the night before.After several minutes, the group then switches to the task roles, a process in which they define a task and go about achieving the task. Bormannwould explain that through this action, the group is more likely to have very active conversations, and ultimately energize the group, increasing their

Group B has a problem when it comes to group cohesion. When they are together, they focus solely on the task at hand, instead of tending to the
maintenance roles. This causes Group B to become less cohesive in Bormannís viewpoint.

Relevant Research:
     Bormann, E., Cragan, J., & Shields, D. (1994). "In Defense of Symbolic Convergence Theory: A Look at the Theory and its Criticisms After Two Decades," Communication Theory, 4. N.J.,  259-294.
     Krippendorf, K. (1989). "On the Ethics of constructing Communication, in Rethinking Communication, Vol. 1, Brenda Dervin, LawrenceGrossberg, and Barbara O'Keefe (eds.). Sage, Newbury Park, Calif., 66-96.
     Shields, D. & Cragan, J. (1995). Symbolic Theories in Applied Communication Research: Bormann, Burke, and Fisher, Hampton. Cresskill, N.J., Chs. 2 and 6.

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,  183- 184.

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 112- 114.

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 21- 28.

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, 33- 34.

      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, 167- 168.

      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, 24.Ideas and Implications