Symbolic convergence theory posits that communication is a process of creating meaning. People use symbols to construct and interpret reality. For example, when someone says “I love you,” they are not just expressing their feelings; they are also conveying a message about what love means to them and how they want others to perceive them. This is one way that we use language to create shared meanings, or common understandings, with others. In other words, we don’t simply exchange information — we also create meaning through our interactions with others.
The concept of symbolic convergence draws attention to the role of emotion in communication — how we feel about something can shape our understanding of it — even when we are only talking about it in abstract terms. It also stresses the importance of social context on meaning making — how we talk about things depends on who is listening and what they know or believe already.
The theory was developed by Ernest Bormann in the 1970s and was influenced by the work of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, who argued that social realities are created by the meaning people give to their social experiences.
Bormann believed that culture arises from the convergence of symbols – an idea that led him to develop the concept of symbolic convergence. According to this theory, when two or more cultures begin using similar symbols, they begin to influence one another’s cultures.