Structure and Functions of Fantasy

By Eric Klinger | Go to book overview
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Response Integration: An Approach to Serial Order within Fantasy Segments

An important part of what is intriguing about fantasy arises from the way in which fantasy segments unfold. Although a segment is by definition coherent thematically, focused on a certain class of events that distinguishes it from the content of adjacent segments, a segment is nevertheless a complex piece of behavior. Verbally reported segments are usually at least a sentence long and therefore involve relationships among objects and events. Often a segment contains the equivalent of a story plot, rushing on without pause through a unified succession of events that follow each other seemingly automatically. Sometimes the order of ideas is prosaic, sometimes bizarre and startling, and sometimes warmly amusing. People come to know themselves in part through the content of their fantasies, including the characteristic twists and turns of the events that occur within segments as well as the shifts between.

This chapter considers the kinds of structural principles necessary to account for the unfolding of content within fantasy segments. Such principles must account not only for the sheer fact of a succession of ideas but also for the high degree of organization within segments, for their apparent cohesiveness, for the ease with which they unfold, for their ability to surprise, for their occurrence simultaneously with many other kinds of behavior, and for the changes in their structure with conditions of fatigue, sleepiness, pharmacology, and psychosis. The oldest theoretical approach, associationism, still contends with newer approaches to explain these facets of inner experience. Despite its severe limitations as a comprehensive explanatory system, it provides a provocative point of departure.


Certain thoughts tend automatically to follow certain others. In its most general terms, that is the nub of associationism. To fill in the specifications


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Structure and Functions of Fantasy


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