Conversation Analysis and Psychology


Loughborough University


Loughborough University


We begin by outlining a range of ways in which Conversation Analysis (CA) can be relevant to Psychology, and vice versa. This is a complex topic, so the following list is neither definitive nor exhaustive. The rest of the chapter will elaborate, necessarily selectively, on those we see as most relevant for CA.

(i) Much of psychology conceives of language in a noninteractive fashion, as the psychology of grammar and meaning, and as a matter of specifying the mental processes underlying comprehension and production. This is the established domain of experimental psycholinguistics, and of various approaches to language in experimental Social Psychology, such as ‘verb semantics’ models of causal attribution (e.g. Brown & Fish, 1983; Semin & Fiedler, 1988). Such studies typically avoid everyday recorded talk-in-interaction in favor of sets of sentences or vignettes carefully constructed to test hypotheses about mental processing. We will not pursue this line of research in the space available here, being least relevant to CA, but see Edwards and Potter (1993) for a CA-inspired alternative way of approaching the claimed domain of relevance of such studies, which is the nature of people’s everyday causal explanations of events.
(ii) Psychology may study ‘dialog’, the scare quotes being there to distinguish most examples of ‘dialog’ from the kind of recorded ...

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