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Fisher’s Model – Small Group Communication


The studies concerning the group development have been done by the researchers for many years. As the result of these studies varied models have been proposed. Linear models are considered as the most influential discoveries made in the late 20th century.

fisher’s model small group communication

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Fisher’s model is one of the linear models of small group communication is proposed by  B. Aubrey Fisher. He was the professor of communications at Utah University and author of many books based on small group communication and decision making.

Fisher’s works on the four phases of decision making with each described by distinctive design of interaction is distinguished.


It had been studied that to make a decision and to accomplish an activity the group have to go through an array of phases.

Decision making in a group communication is a very important factor to come up with an idea unanimously. As a group, the decision making includes reflective thinking and standard agenda. It was developed by John Dewey.

A careful systematic approach to a problem is reflective thinking and making use of a six step guide to take their decision is called standard agenda.

  1. Problem Identification: To identify the problem and finding the reason for that problem.
  2. Problem Analysis: Analyzing the problem and identifying the forces that play in the group’s situation.
  3. Criteria Selection: Identifying the goals of the final decision.
  4. Solution Generation: As a group come up with many solutions.
  5. Solution Evaluation and Selection: Select solution as the criteria.
  6. Solution implementation: Implementing the solution.

According to B. Aubrey fisher, interaction changed as the group decision was formulated and solidified during different moments of group process. He noted this change on the basis of the contents in their responses to a decision process.

With his observation he created a code with which he could identify the interact ants (ants which communicate with fellow ants and decides the travel path) related with each decision making level.

According to fisher, Decision making can be recurring and in some situations inconsistent. The paths taken by interact ants to take a decision can be observed through a number of possibilities according to the situation. With the four phases of Fisher’s model, we can understand how a decision develops within a group.

Fisher’s Model

Fisher’s model is a development model consisting of four stages. An accord is emerging within a group by going through these stages.

  1. Orientation
  2. Conflict
  3. Emergence
  4. Reinforcement

Stage 1-Orientation– The first step is about getting to know each other. Here members feel uncomfortable due to lack of communication. The group tends to experience primary tension. Interpretation and agreement happen in this phase as the part of getting to know each other. Due to nervousness, members tend to come up with favorable reactions. Here the members share their problems and will prepare the restrictions and opportunities assumed in confronting the problem.

Stage 2-Conflict– In this stage the problem is examined and each individual tries to convey get into a solution through their perspective. In a small group communication this type of responses increases individual’s participation and the groupthink can be avoided. A high level of individuality can be sustained. Nervousness will subside in this stage and develops certainty in responses. The difference in opinions later helps in emergence of good results. The emergence of rankings and leaders can be seen in the later part of the conflict stage.

Stage 3-  Emergence– Group’s task and its arrangement become noticeable. In this stage uncertainty increases but the responses are kept quiet. The group tends to reach to a unanimity apart from the debating with different responses in the conflicting stage. They will try to compromise. This stage is considered to be the longest.

Stage 4- Reinforcement– This is the final stage of small group communication. Here the members try to observe their final decision through an array of their own viewpoints. It creates solidarity within the group. Accord and reinforcement is given to the decision with approving opinions.


We can consider a new batch in a university as a small group.  A problem raised due to unsatisfactory facilities in one of the halls in the university and the students have to come up with the idea to make other students aware of the problem and to work anonymously. So the small group inside the particular hall will start working together a plan to achieve this.

In the first stage as they are total strangers, they try to know each other giving favorable response.

In the second stage of conflict, each individual try to come up with a solution of their own perspective.

In the third stage, emergence, most of the responses are kept quiet with most of them and a leader will be raised for the team who gives opinions of the strike, whether it is favorable or unfavorable to others.

In the last reinforcement stage, all the members agree with the idea in order to create solidarity in the group. For that reason rest of the group agrees to strike within the campus and create awareness about the injustice happening within the college.


The application of this model can only be vaguely applied in real world situations. The problem solving in a small group is more complicated than the proposed theory.

As a group, finding a solution where everyone collectively approves is a very difficult position when it comes to a group. The theory fails to bring up the actual problem a small group is confronting such as the fear among the members to communicate openly within a group which leads to groupthink.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • khudadad chachar March 13, 2013, 11:42 am

    Unsatisfied model! i am sorry

  • Charles Chan September 20, 2014, 1:08 pm

    Dear sir,

    I am writing a study texts for a diploma course in Malaysia on Insurance Operations and will like to seek permission to quote the following points from your article as below :

    “According to B. Aubrey Fisher, there are four stages or phases that should be involved in all group decision-making:
    Orientation: employees meet for the first time and start to get to know each other.
    Conflict: once the group employees become familiar with each other, disputes, little fights and arguments occur. But they eventually work it out.
    Emergence: by talking about the decisions, the group begins to clear up vague opinions.
    Reinforcement: the team of employees finally makes a decision and provides a justification for it.”

    Thank you very much and looking forward to your reply.

    Charles Chan

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