Structure and Functions of Fantasy

By Eric Klinger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12 Other Influences on Fantasy Content

Previous chapters argue that many influences on the thematic content of fantasy turn out under close scrutiny to be special cases of the operation of current concerns. Current concerns have a potentiating effect on the incidence of fantasy segments whose content is related to the content of the concerns. Operationally, current concerns are identifiable with interrupted but nonabandoned striving after an incentive.

The statement that concerns potentiate fantasies can account for changes in the frequency with which a certain class of content occurs in fantasy, but it cannot explain any particular fluctuation in the content of fantasy. Chapter 7 attempts to sketch a mechanism for shifts from each particular segment of fantasy to the next. The mechanism was described as entailing affective arousal, although perhaps only relatively vestigial arousal such as that involved in minor orienting reactions. In any case, the mechanism is triggered by antecedent events which are often internal and therefore hard to observe.

Besides current concerns and discrete internal events, there are also other influences on the content of fantasy. Stimuli to which a person is exposed may exert a lingering, potentiating effect on the content of his thought processes, including fantasy. In word association experiments the effect is called "priming," and that term may as well be extended to the broader class of variables that includes fantasy. In addition to the priming effect of antecedent stimuli, the properties of the situation in which a person finds himself (the setting, other persons, etc.) also make some kinds of fantasy content more probable than they would be otherwise. Finally, in the special case of projective techniques, the subject's responses are determined perhaps in largest part by the specific attributes of the "ambiguous" stimulus to which he is asked to respond; but for purposes of a general theory of fantasy these effects are artifactual and their consideration will be omitted here.

Stimuli are not, of course, empowered to affect fantasy directly. Their effect must be mediated by mechanisms, which are not necessarily differ

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