Discursive psychology and discourse analysis

Authored by: Jonathan Potter

The Routledge Handbook of Discourse Analysis

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415551076
eBook ISBN: 9780203809068
Adobe ISBN: 9781136672927


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Discursive psychology is an approach that addresses psychological matters in terms of how they figure in discourse – in conversations over family mealtimes, in therapy sessions, in witness statements. It begins with psychology, as it confronts people as they live their lives. How does a speaker show that they are not prejudiced, while developing a derogatory version of an entire cultural group? How is upset displayed, understood and receipted in a call to a child protection helpline? How does a parent show that they care for a disabled daughter while they close down a phone call? How does a police officer move between technical and mundane notions of intention when interviewing a suspect? The point here is that psychology is something that is live and visible as it appears in and through discourse, as actions are performed and receipted. This is not just through psychological language – psychological predicates and avowals – although that is interesting and important, but through styles of speaking, through inflection and prosody, through descriptions that invoke and suggest psychological states and dispositions and through the apparatus of accountability that builds motivation and intention. All of this works through, and is dependent on, the normative organization of conversation, whose operations are themselves a major resource for psychological display and understanding. This is why discourse analysis must be at the heart of a reconfigured psychology.

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