Discursive Psychology

Hedwig te Molder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionaryAcademicpeer-review


Discursive psychology examines how psychological issues are made relevant and put to use in everyday talk. Unlike traditional psychological perspectives, discursive psychology does not approach the question of what psychology comprises and explains from an analyst's perspective. Instead, the focus is on how psychological characteristics are made available, ascribed, and resisted by people themselves , as part of the social actions performed in and through talk. The step from assuming that talk reflects to looking at what talk does is paramount. Discursive psychologists analyze how direct and indirect appeals to mental states do things in the interaction, such as accusing, defending, building expertise, complaining, and complimenting. Rather than determining the truth value of what people report – by looking at what a person really wants, thinks, or feels, or what the world really looks like – discursive psychology focuses on the interactional business performed with these descriptions. Limited memories may, for instance, account for a forgotten action, while displays of anger may enhance the genuineness and spontaneity of an explanation. The action-oriented approach to language makes discursive psychology radically different from cognitivist traditions in psychology that treat mental states as the source or cause of what is being said.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe International Encyclopedia of Communication
PublisherBlackwell Publishing
ISBN (Electronic)9781405186407
ISBN (Print)9781405131995
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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