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Symbolic Conversion
 

 Ernest Bormann

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What is Symbolic Conversion Theory?

The Symbolic Conversion Theory is one of the few theories dealing with the rhetoric of human symbolic interaction, fantasizing, creating agreements and understanding disagreements.

It is a general theory that is on the model of theories in the natural sciences. Such theories are based on experimental evidence. The result is that they provide applications that are repeatable (or replicable?). Doctors use such theories to make diagnoses and treat illness. Chemists use such theories to anticipate the results of the repetition of their experiments, thereby allowing them to create chemical compounds.

You can think of such theories being general in that they work in all cultures and all times.

The central formula of the Symbolic Conversion Theory is a process discovered in the study of small group meetings. The discovery occurred as the result of a member making an imaginative comment which suddenly sparked more excited comments, often laughter, and a complete change of the tension and climate in the group. This process resulted in an increase in group cohesion. This process became known as the dynamic sharing of a group fantasy.

The fantasy is imaginative even when presented as nonfiction, or “the truth.” It is imaginative as it builds a life of its own in the particular group in which it is presented.

The Symbolic Convergence Theory explains the creation of a community consciousness in the past and anticipates them in the future when fantasy sharing occurs. How a particular group approaches and shares a particular story or event will be replicated when a similar story comes into the group consciousness at a later date. The Theory accounts for the building of cultures in organizations, tribes, families, communities, geographical areas, and so on, both in the past and in the present.