Centre for Research in Communication and Culture

Research themes

Language and Social Interaction

Theme Lead: Jessica Robles
We explore communication and culture across a variety of everyday and institutional contexts.

The way that people communicate with each other is fundamental to who we are, what we do, and how we live our lives.  We communicate through talk, gesture, expression, text, discourse and an ever-widening set of cultural practices. Through social interaction, we build personal relationships, enact our professional lives, persuade and argue, construct ourselves and others, and exercise or resist power. 

Language and social interaction has been at the centre of Loughborough’s Discourse and Rhetoric Group (DARG) for over 30 years. DARG’s members - past and present – are world-leading authorities in their fields. Our distinctive strengths have always been in the study of interaction and discourse, and among our current projects we are studying communication in primary health care and in end-of-life care; in diagnosing and supporting people with dementia, in crisis negotiation, phonetics and interaction, and conversation analysis in simulated, experimental and computationally-augmented settings.


Loughborough University founded Discursive Psychology in the late 1980s and early 90s, and its reach is felt around the world across many disciplines. It has also led developments in conversation analytic research, examining identity construction, gender and sexuality, prejudice and discrimination, healthcare communication, interaction in forensic and other legal contexts, and personal/social relationships.

Our wide-ranging language and social interaction research is independently recognised as internationally world-leading (REF 2014). Projects have been supported by the ESRC, British Academy, NIHR, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, The Health Foundation, LOROS Hospice, The Motor Neurone Disease Association, ACAS, the Metropolitan Police, Typeform, among other bodies. Loughborough University is also home to spin-out communication training programmes Conversation Analytic Role-play Method and Real Talk.

We host the world-leading research outlets, including Research on Language and Social Interaction, edited by Professor Charles Antaki; Gender and Sexualities in Psychology (Routledge), edited by Professors Elizabeth Peel and Elizabeth Stokoe, and Palgrave Studies in Discursive Psychology, edited by Dr Cristian Tileagă and Professor Elizabeth Stokoe.

  • Professor Charles Antaki is a social psychologist who studies how people manage their lives through talk, especially when their communication is disordered. He is editor of the prestigious journal Research on Language and Social Interaction
  • Dr Saul Albert is a Lecturer in Social Sciences (Social Psychology). His research at the intersection of conversation analysis, cognitive science, and aesthetics focuses on how assessments and judgements of taste are produced through social interaction. He is a board member of the International Society for Conversation Analysis (ISCA), and an associate member of the Human Interaction Lab at Tufts University. 
  • Dr Carly Butler is Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology. Her research examines social interaction in everyday life, across a range of ordinary and professional contexts. She has particular interests in children’s play and interaction, family communication, and the delivery of help and support. Her recent work explores equine interaction, looking at horse-human interaction and equine-assisted therapeutic activities.
  • Dr Ann Doehring is a research associate, her research examines the role of companions (friends and family) in the seizure clinic and the interactional involvement of companions in clinical settings. She is working as part of the VERDIS project, which builds evidence and staff training resources about healthcare communication skills. Her research for this project focuses on studying effective and sensitive communication when companions accompany patients in palliative care consultations and therapy sessions.
  • Dr Laura Jenkins is a Research Fellow using conversation analysis to understand and improve medical encounters. She was part of a ground-breaking study that designed and delivered Conversation Analytic training for doctors in the seizure clinic. This innovative programme enabled doctors to identify linguistic features in patients’ talk: features that can contribute to distinguishing between epilepsy and non-epileptic seizures. Laura’s current research is part of the VERDIS project, which works with doctors and patients in a palliative care hospice in the UK. She is identifying positive practices used by experienced palliative care doctors in pain assessments in end-of-life care. Laura is developing these findings into training materials for other clinicians as part of the Real Talk education intervention. 
  • Dr Victoria Land is a senior research fellow. Her overarching interest is in decision-making in healthcare settings. Her current work is part of the VERDIS-AHP video-based conversation analytic project examining interactions between palliative medicine doctors and hospice patients and interactions between end-of-life specialist physiotherapists and occupational therapists and their patients. Using the perspectives and methods of CA, her research analyses how decisions and plans are made, challenged and revised to contribute towards giving patients a better end of life experience. She is also undertaking a rapid realist review of communication skills training interventions.
  • Professor Ruth Parry studies language and social interaction, with particular foci on: healthcare, how people communicate (verbally and bodily) about difficult topics including dying and death, and on how closely examining interaction can help us better define and describe important but often contested notions like dignity, empathy and embodiment. She is an NIHR Academy Fellow and collaborates with NHS and Charitable healthcare organisations. She is the lead developer of Real Talk communication training resources.
  • Professor Elizabeth Peel has research interests in health communication, specifically dementia, and discriminatory discourse pertaining to LGBTIQ communities. She has influenced the communication of her discipline (namely psychology) via the BPS awarding winning textbook LGBTIQ Psychology: An introduction (Cambridge University Press). Her current projects include the Future of Legal Gender study.
  • Dr Marco Pino is a Lecturer in Communication and Social Interaction. He explores how people engage in delicate activities in face-to-face interaction and how they manage difficult episodes of communication. He uses conversation analysis to study communication in various settings including support groups, medical interactions, individual psychotherapy, and mundane settings. His current projects include the study of conflict, error correction, references to personal experiences, and ‘cues’ about end-of-life concerns.   
  • Dr Jessica Robles is a Lecturer in Social Psychology. She is fascinated by how moral troubles are implicated in ordinary social interactions. Her research has explored many topics in which morality surfaces, from little words such as “like,” to political arguments, family interactions, and responses to racism. She is a chair and former chair of the Language and Social Interaction sections of the National Communication Association (USA) and the International Communication Association (respectively). She is co-author of the book Everyday Talk: Building and Reflecting Identities with Karen Tracy. 
  • Dr Rein Ove Sikveland is a research associate specializing in social interaction and phonetics. Rein has researched call centre interactions, and contributed to developing technological applications for call centre profiling (University of Oxford). Based on his research of workplace interactions, Rein develops communication skills training for the relevant professionals, and is co-developer of the ‘Conversation Analytic Role-play Method’ (CARM). He has researched police crisis negotiations with people who threaten suicide, and is currently co-chief investigator on the project ‘Conversation Analytic innovation for Teacher Education’ (CAiTE). Rein is first author of the upcoming book Crisis Talk and Negotiating with Individuals in Crisis, with Heidi Kevoe-Feldman and Elizabeth Stokoe. He is co-author of the first Norwegian coursebook on conversation analysis, due in 2020.
  • Professor Elizabeth Stokoe uses conversation analysis to understand how talk works - from first dates to medical communication and from sales encounters to hostage negotiation. In addition to her role at Loughborough University, she is currently Professor II at University of South-Eastern Norway, and a consultant at an SaaS company, Typeform. Outside the university, she runs workshops using her research-based communication training method called the "Conversation Analytic Role-play Method". She is a WIRED Innovation Fellow and her research and biography were featured on the BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific. In addition to publishing over 120 scientific papers and books, she is passionate about science communication, translating the world of conversation analysis for audiences of all kinds. She has given talks at TED, New Scientist, Google and The Royal Institution, and performed at Latitude and Cheltenham Science Festivals. Her book, Talk: The Science of Conversation, is published by Little, Brown (2018).
  • Dr Cristian Tileagă is a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology. His research centres on developing critical frameworks for researching social and political behavior. His research interests include the critical psychology of racism, collective memory and transitional justice, and Critical Perspectives (Cambridge University Press, 2013), The Nature of Prejudice: Society, Discrimination and Moral Exclusion (Routledge, 2015) and Representing Communism after the Fall: Discourse, Memory and Historical Redress (Palgrave, 2018). He is the co-editor of the Palgrave Studies in Discursive Psychology (with Professor Elizabeth Stokoe). 
  • Becky Whittaker 

    Becky Whittaker is the programme development manager for an innovate and exciting education intervention called ‘Real Talk – engaging patient in talking about end of life’. This is part of the wider VERDIS research team in the School of Social Sciences and Humanities. Becky is an experienced registered nurse with extensive clinical experience in the management and delivery of palliative and end of life care in a range of settings, including NHS and the voluntary sector. An experienced educator, Becky’s area of interest is incorporating research evidence into curriculum design and evaluation.

Our current research is concerned with:

  • The basics of communication: What are the rules of conversation?
  • Identity and politics: How is prejudice expressed in everyday life?
  • Healthcare: How do doctors and other healthcare staff and patients communicate sensitively and effectively?
  • Crises and emergencies: How do emergency personnel handle delicate situations of high risk?
  • The future of conversation: How do AI and voice technologies manage social interaction in everyday life?
  • Disordered talk: What difficulties of communication do people with dementia, aphasia or learning disability need to overcome?

How do we talk about difficult issues, such as dying and Death?

Ruth is a Professor of Human Communication and Interaction in the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at Loughborough University. Ruth is based in the Centre for Research on Communication and Culture, with a focus particularly on interaction. She began her career as a physiotherapist in the NHS, and in her subsequent academic career has focused in particular on healthcare interactions and rehabilitation.

Communicating with people who have dementia

Professor Elizabeth Peel talks about her research looking at how people interact with each other and the opportunities to maximise people’s social inclusion and quality of life.

The science of conversation

Elizabeth Stokoe is a Professor of Social Interaction. She studies the science of conversation across a variety of contexts including police interrogation, medical encounters, mediation, dating, and commercial sales.

Our impact