Thursday, 21 June 2012

Discursive Psychology

Discursive psychology (DP) is a form of discourse analysis that focuses on psychological themes.
Discursive psychology starts with psychological phenomena as things that are constructed, attended to, and understood in interaction. An evaluation, say, may be constructed using particular phrases and idioms, responded to by the recipient (as a compliment perhaps) and treated as the expression of a strong position. In discursive psychology the focus is not on psychological matters somehow leaking out into interaction; rather interaction is the primary site where psychological issues are live.
It is philosophically opposed to more traditional cognitivist approaches to language. It uses studies of naturally occurring conversation to critique the way that topics have been conceptualised and treated in psychology.

Discursive psychology conducts studies of both naturally occurring and experimentally engineered human interaction that offer new ways of understanding topics in social and cognitive psychology such as memory and attitudes. Although discursive psychology subscribes to a different view of human mentality than is advanced by mainstream psychology, Edwards and Potter's work was originally motivated by their dissatisfaction with how psychology had treated discourse. In many psychological studies, the things people (subjects) say are treated as windows (with varying degrees of opacity) into their minds. Talk is seen as (and in experimental psychology and protocol analysis used as) descriptions of people's mental content. In contrast, discursive psychology treats talk as social action; that is, we say what we do as a means of, and in the course of, doing things in a socially meaningful world. Thus, the questions that it makes sense to ask also change.

In the past few years work in discursive psychology has focused on material from real world situations such as relationship counselling, child protection helplines, neighbour disputes and family mealtimes. It asks questions such as the following: How does a party in relationship counselling construct the problem as something that the other party needs to work on? Or how does a child protection officer working on a child protection helpline manage the possibly competing tasks of soothing a crying caller and simultaneously eliciting evidence sufficient for social services to intervene to help an abused child? What makes a parent's request to a child to eat different from a directive, and different in turn from a threat?

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