Discourse and Social Psychology: Beyond Attitudes and Behaviour

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SAGE, Apr 22, 1987 - Discourse analysis - 256 pages
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Potter and Wetherell have genuinely presented us with a different way of working in social psychology. The book's clarity means that it has the power to influence a lot of people ill-at-ease with traditional social psychology but unimpressed with (or simply bewildered by) other alternatives on offer. It could rescue social psychology from the sterility of the laboratory and its traditional mentalism' - "Charles Antaki, The Times Higher Education Supplement


This bookis the first systematic and accessible introduction to the theory and application of discourse analysis within the field of social psychology.

Discourse and Social Psychology includes chapters on the theoretical roots of discourse analysis in linguistic philosophy, ethnomethodology and semiotics and an overview on the perspectives of discourse analysis and its utility in studying attitudes. Five substantive chapters are concerned with the key concepts of social psychology. Finally, the authors identify future research directions and present an exhaustive bibliography of all relevant literature.

The authors draw on a wide range of examples from written and spoken discourse and avoid jargon at all times, even when introducing complex theoretical issues.


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Small, academically written book that is still a good source for understanding discursive psychology 25 years after it was written. Especially good for undergraduate level study.


Foundations of discourse analysis
Unfolding discourse analysis
Making rules work
Accounts in sequence
Speaking subjects
Categories in discourse
From representations to repertoires
How to analyse discourse
Controversial topics and future directions
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Page 16 - There must exist an accepted conventional procedure having a certain conventional effect, that procedure to include the uttering of certain words by certain persons in certain circumstances, and further, A. 2 the particular persons and circumstances in a given case must be appropriate for the invocation of the particular procedure invoked.
Page 6 - a framework within which things are made meaningful' (Painter 1995: 14). However, as Potter and Wetherell explain: social texts do not merely reflect or mirror objects, events and categories pre-existing in the social and natural world. Rather, they actively construct a version of those things. They do not just describe things, they do things. And being active, they have social and political implications.
Page 7 - Mulkay (1984) to cover all forms of spoken interaction, formal and informal, and written texts of all kinds.

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About the author (1987)

Jonathan Potter is Professor of Discourse Analysis and Dean of the School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences at Loughborough University. He has studied topics such as scientific argumentation, current affairs television, riots, racism, relationship counselling and child protection helplines. His main focus recently has been on the study of helpline interaction, on interaction during family mealtimes, on the conceptualization of cognition in interaction research, and on issues of psychology and institutions. He a world authority on qualitative methods and has written on discourse analysis and discursive psychology, focus groups, the study of psychological issues. Recently has raised questions about the over-reliance of social scientists on open-ended qualitative interviews. He has taught workshops and short courses on analysis in 10 different countries.

Margaret Wetherell is Professor of Social Psychology at the Open University, UK and Director of the Economic and Social Research Council Programme on Identities and Social Action.

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