Saturday, 12 May 2012

Part of an assignment.

Discursive approach in psychology

The Discursive approach in psychology is a qualitative method that investigates the modes of communication people use, which includes speech and text writing but also includes interactions such as non verbal communication, repetitions and pausing (Lester 2011, p 283) with the understanding that these modes of communication contain strategies and methods to perform particular actions (Potter & Hepburn 2005, p339). This approach can be understood as an approach within the traditions of Discourse analysis (Potter & Hepburn 2005, p 338) which was developed as a way of examining the sociology of scientific knowledge (Wooffitt 2005, p 18). Important early work in what is described as Discursive psychology was published by Potter and Edwards in the 1990's (Edwards & Potter 1992) and their influences are described as Ethnmethodology, Conversation Analysis developed by Harvey Sacks and Willigs Rhetorical analysis among other influences (Tuffin 2005, p 81).

There is a recognition that the challenge of Wittgenstein's postulation in 1958 that mental concepts are grounded in communicated actions to the Cartesian model of mind and body and to the view of language only being a behaviour produced by cognition (Lester 2011, p 281) may have been an early influence in the development of Discourse analysis (Lester 2001, p 283). As a qualititative method it is suited for investigating experience imbedded in real life contexts and intentional actions (Marecek 2003, p 55) and facilitating research with an ends that can be potentially lost in quantitative research methods. Qualititative methods when used in conjunction with reflexive methods are potentially more honest in representing the subjective aspects of the research process facilitating an understanding of the context of the research as a historical process (Marecek 2003, p 63).

Significant theoretical approaches in Discourse analysis are that communication is a medium of human action and interaction that is part of greater set of practices that are situated in a context of previous communication, can be situated within institutions and can have rhetorical functions (Potter 2003, p 76). Discourse analysis approaches various modes of conversation as constructed by language resources but also holds that they construct the way people experience events and actions and their interpretations of events and actions, thus peoples phenomenological worlds are constructed and stabilized in modes of conversation containing action orientations (Potter 2003, p 76).

As an approach Discursive analysis can be differentiated from other forms of Discourse analysis by its focus on specific modes of conversation, its focus on data from specific social practices that are placed in context instead of approaching discourse as an abstract object (Potter 2003, p 75) and understanding construction as a process that is not abstract (Potter 2003, p 75).

When the Discursive approach describes modes of communication being constructive while carrying out rhetorical functions as action orientations it holds that language use is a primary social activity that is constructed to meet the requirements of the situation. It posits that emotion, attitudes and memories are constituted in and through the way they are talked and written about (Tuffin 2005, p 88), thus discursive constructions are constructed by and constructing of self and identity. It suggests that emotion is produced in the context of interaction and thus psychological knowledge should be studied in the context of conversation & interaction. This philosophy is associated with a methodology derived from Harvey Sacks Conversation Analysis that has a utility in recording and analysing the interaction of people and their accounts (Tuffin 2005, p 80). Initially the data of discursive analysis was of conversational interviews but recent work focuses on natural institutional interactions such as therapy, helpline talk and case conferences so long records are available (Potter 2003, p 74).

The ideas of the Discursive approach used for analysis are that conversations and interactions are constructed of statements that are composed of linguistic resources and invokes packages of ideas, the interpretive repertoire of individuals (Tuffin 2005, p 85). The interpretive repertoires that individuals have are systematically related sets of terms, that have a stylistic and grammatical coherence that are organised around central metaphors (Tuffin 2005, p 85). Thus modes of conversations involve working with these resources to achieve action orientations.


Antaki, Charles: Billig, Michael, Edwards & Potter, Jonathan. (2003). Discourse analysis means doing analysis : A critique of six analytic shortcomings. In Discourse Analysis Online (2003). pages 1 -9.

Edwards, Derek & Potter, Jonathan. (1992). Discursive Psychology. Published by SAGE Publications. Pg 1 -196.

Hutchby, Ian & Wooffitt. (1998). Conversation Analysis: Principles, Practices and Applications. Published by Polity. (Source of Assignment Conversation Extract).

Lester, Jessica. (2011). Exploring the Borders of Cognitive and Discursive Psychology: A Methodological Reconceptualization of Cognition and Discourse. In the Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology. Volume 10, Number 3, 2011. Pages 281, 282 & 283.

Marecek, Jeanne. (2003). Dancing through minefields: Towards a qualititative stance in Psychology. From Qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design. Editors Camic, Paul M; Rhodes, Jean E & Yardley, Lucy. Published by the American Psychological Association. Pages 55.

Potter, Jonathan. (2003). Discourse analysis and discursive psychology. From Qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design. Editors Camic, Paul M; Rhodes, Jean E & Yardley, Lucy. Published by the American Psychological Association. Pages 73 to 94.

Tuffin, Keith. (2005). Understanding Critical Social Psychology. Published by Sage, London. Pages 80, 81, 85 & 88.

Woffitt, Robin. (2005). Conversation Analysis and Discourse Analysis: A Comparative and Critical Introduction. Published by Sage. Printed in Great Britain. Pages 13 & 18.

Importance of interaction, specific kinds of actions are appropriate or expected.. Interactions have a shape and form as a series of connected actions (Wooffitt 2005: 8). Conversation analysis seeks to make sense of those events of which the transcription is a representation.

Look for core phases.

Introduction, reciprocated questions, 1st point of conversation.

Negotiate an exit. Preclosing the reciprocated farewells.
Types of utterances
Constantive- report and Performative “suggest action”. Promises, warnings, declarations. Utterances are speech acts (Sacks). Amongst strangers names are exchanged. Intuition cannot anticipate the diversity of content.

Laughter acts as a form of alignment and affilitation with the on going talk.

Statements about abnormal events tend to have “at first I thought but then” statements by sane people. Schizophrenic individuals tend to not present their observations in a mundane to abnormal format, sane people tend to first ground their experience in the mundane to diffuse criticism.

Recycled components : repeated word or phrases following  the overlap of someone else's speech act.

Construction unit, transition relevance place.

Turn taking can be indicated by intonational completion as compared to syntactic & pragmatic completion (From Ford & Thompson (1996) Interaction and Grammar. Published by Cambridge University Press. Pages 147- 151.)

Issues to do with variability.
  • Obtain statements by interview or by observation in a natural setting
  • Look for broad similarities between statements
  • If there are similarities occurring frequently, take statements at face value, they equal what is going on. This is flawed and the circumstances of its production needs to be investigated.
  • Construct a generalized version of participants accounts of what is going on, present this as ones own analytic conclusions (Gilbert & Mulkay 1984: 5)
(From Opening Pandora's Box: A Sociological Analysis of Scientists' Discourse
 By G. Nigel Gilbert, Michael Joseph Mulkay. Published by Cambridge University Press)

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