Applying discursive approaches to health psychology

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Seymour-Smith, S (2015)

Objective: The aim of this paper is to outline the contribution of two strands of discursive research, glossed as ‘macro’ and ‘micro’, to the field of health psychology. A further goal is to highlight some contemporary debates in methodology associated with the use of interview data versus more naturalistic data in qualitative health research. Method: Discursive psychology is a way of analysing talk as a social practice which considers how descriptions are put together and what actions they achieve. Results: A selection of recent examples of discursive research from one applied area of health psychology, studies of diet and obesity, are drawn upon in order to illustrate the specifics of both strands. Whilst both approaches focus on accountability, ‘macro’ discourse work is most useful for identifying the cultural context of talk and can demonstrate how individuals are positioned within such discourses, and examine how such discourses are negotiated and resisted. ‘Micro’ discursive research pays closer attention to the sequential organisation of constructions and focuses on naturalistic settings which allow for the inclusion of an analysis of the health professional. Conclusion: Diets are typically depicted as an individual responsibility in mainstream health psychology but discursive research highlights how discourses are collectively produced and bound up with social practices.
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