Language and social interaction

Since Loughborough founded Discursive Psychology in the late 1980s and early 90s 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. Our research has also launched two spin-out communication training programmes Conversation Analytic Role-play Method and Real Talk.

Our expertise has helped shape the public response to the Covid-19 crisis in the UK and internationally. This has involved contributions to the UK government’s SAGE groups, guidance for NHS staff engaged in difficult conversations with Covid-19 patients and families, video streaming the arts, and tackling the harmful effects of misinformation.

Engaging people in end-of-life talk

With the support of the National Institute for Health Research, we collaborate with international scientists to record and analyse thousands of difficult conversations across various health and social care settings in the UK, Australia, Japan, and the US.

Drawing on this extensive evidence base, we steer conversations away from recommended phrases or scripts to equip health workers with the tools to communicate flexibly, tailoring their conversations to individual circumstances.

Real Talk

We have pioneered a novel training approach aimed at enhancing healthcare communication in palliative care. In partnership with the University of Derby and Royal Derby Hospital, we have developed open access resources that aim to support healthcare staff who will be having difficult conversations with patients and those closest to them. Since 2018, Real Talk has been used to train over 500 health professionals, mostly NHS and hospice staff. Most recently, our work has extended to provide a vital resource during the coronavirus pandemic.

Real Talk communication training

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Professor Ruth Parry

Professor Ruth Parry

Professor of Human Communication and Interaction

AI and social robotics for health and social care

AI and social robotics could have a vital role in the delivery of health and social care services. Current virtual assistants – for example, the Amazon Echo (Alexa) – are advertised as assistive devices for elderly and disabled people. But how accessible are they really?

Adept at Adaptation

The British Academy funded Adept at Adaptation project studies how disabled people adapt consumer technology – including voice-controlled lights, power sockets, entertainment systems, and other smart devices – as accessible home automation systems. Building on this, we are also engaged in collaborative interdisciplinary work with speech analytics and AI-augmented conversation software companies is being developed with Sentient Machines and Microsoft Research.

Project website

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Dr Saul Albert

Dr Saul Albert

Lecturer in Social Sciences (Social Psychology)

Conversation analysis in education practice

In educational contexts, not all answers are treated as equally adequate as an answer to a question, and educators routinely steer students’ problem solving through various interactional means, towards an adequate answer. How can we train student teachers to be effective in their assessment practices?

Conversation Analytic innovation for Teacher Education

Our investment in training in Conversation Analysis and the Conversation-Analytic Role Play Method, aimed at scholars both domestically and internationally, inspired a major Norwegian Research Council project Conversation Analytic innovation for Teacher Education (CAiTE). The project, led by the University College of Southeast Norway, used the CARM method to enhance teacher education with the aim of improving assessment and feedback.

CAiTE project Published research

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Research centre