Date of Award

Summer 1989

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Scotton, James F.

Second Advisor

Pokrywczynski, James

Third Advisor

Turner, Lynn


This thesis presents a new approach to small group theory. This project began with proxemics. In 1983, I first began noticing a pattern of behavior related to where people sat in a room. Leaders of groups usually seemed to sit farthest from the door. They seemed to talk more and be more domineering than people who sat near the door. I wondered if a leader who sat close to the door would be less domineering and develop a more effective group. The first roadblock to doing this thesis was figuring out the topic. I was interested in small groups, but could not see how small group research fit with mass communication. Gail Miles, a student in one of my classes suggested the topic of this study. Focus groups provide a valuable methodology for doing market research and other types of research. Often the information from a focus group results in some type of media campaign. The body of research on the functioning of focus groups is limited and essentially descriptive. Unfortunately, the literature on focus groups seldom draws on the rich body of theory and research related to small group communication. This thesis applies research on small group communication to focus groups. Many researchers have studied dominance, and several theories of small group communication consider some aspect of dominance and group leadership. This body of research seemed like the perfect point of departure for considering my ideas about proxemics, dominance, and group leadership. For this reason, I decided to research how these factors ma y affect focus groups.