Dr Jessica Robles

PhD (University of Colorado)

Pronouns: She/her
  • Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology

Jessica 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 conducts qualitative research using discourse analysis and teaches qualitative methods courses in the Social Psychology programme.

Her degrees are in Communication and Media Studies (BA, University of San Francisco, USA: 2004), English Language and Linguistics (MA, University of Essex, UK: 2005), and Communication (PhD, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA: 2011). Jessica's previous positions have been at the University of New Hampshire (USA: 2011-2013) and the University of Washington (USA: 2013-2015).

Jessica's research involves discourse analysis of language and social interaction; she transcribes recorded ordinary interactions in a range of settings, from the interpersonal and relational (among friends, family) to the organisational and institutional (related to health, politics, education, business). Most of her work focuses on mundane conversations in which something moral arises, particularly when something goes awry. She is especially interested in practical problems, challenges, troubles, and dilemmas—those moments when interaction acquires a little “danger” or requires a bit of delicacy. Jessica's doctoral dissertation used a series of such situations to theorise that the relationship between communication and morality is centrally concerned with the social organization of difference. Her subsequent publications have further sought to understand how morality is entangled everyday distinctions, disalignments, and disagreements. Her book Everyday Talk: Building and Reflecting Identities (2nd edition, 2013), written with first author Karen Tracy, works through many of the concepts, theories and perspectives underlying my research, and is frequently used as an undergraduate textbook in courses on discourse, identity, and culture.

Jessica teaches qualitative methods courses in Social Psychology, including Practical Social Psychology, Researching Social Life, and Foundations in Qualitative Research Methods. Her teaching philosophy is to engage students in a project of inquiry, driven by their own interests, and jointly pursued by student and instructor. Jessica's goal is to share the empirical and practical significance of looking at social psychology through the lens of discourse.

Jessica welcomes PhD supervision that uses or incorporates interactional and discursive approaches to talk or text, including ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, discursive psychology, discourse analysis, and/or membership categorisation analysis applied to conversation in ordinary, institutional, or mediated settings. She is open to a range of topics but is especially interested in anything to do with social judgments and morality; and specialises in the following (often overlapping!) settings and situations:

Language, Interaction, and New Communication Technologies

Projects in this area examine how people interact with, talk about, and use communication technologies and devices in their everyday social interactions. These projects closely examine video recordings of naturally-occurring conversations in which people interact with each other while also engaging with devices such as smartphones and laptops and sometimes judging other people's use of devices or device content, including social media conduct. 

Language, Culture, and Identity

Projects in this area consider, how is language used to do things in social life--to attack and persuade, or to present types of people, or to align with or against different groups? This considers language in relation to, for example, race, gender, sexuality, and other identities. Most of Jessica's research in this area has so far been based on recordings of naturally-occurring conversations among peers, friends, and families. 

Language, Interaction, and Politics

Projects in this area consider how language is done in everyday political discourse, including more official government settings, but also how ordinary people talk about political (and politicized) topics. This includes research in institutional, ordinary, and social media interactions. 

Language and Mental Health

Projects in this area examine how people construct and label mental health and statuses related to mental health, such as addiction and recovery, in ordinary, institutional, media, and social media interactions. 

  • Robles, J. S. & Castor, T. (2019). Taking the moral high ground: Practices for being uncompromisingly principled. Journal of Pragmatics.
  • DiDomenico, S. M., Raclaw, J. & Robles, J. S. (2019). Answering the mobile summons: Managing multiple streams of communication across co-present and mediated modalities. Communication Research.
  • Robles, J. S. & Parks, E. (2019). Complaints about technology as a resource for identity-work. Language in Society48, 209-231.
  • Robles, J. S. (2019). Building up by tearing down. Journal of Language and Social Psychology38, 85-105.
  • Hofstetter, E. & Robles, J. S. (2018). Manipulation in board game interactions: Being a sporting player. Symbolic Interaction.
  • Robles, J. S.,  DiDomenico, S. M. & Raclaw, J. (2018). Doing being an ordinary communication technology and social media user. Language & Communication60, 150-167.
  • Robles, J. S. (2017). Exclusion in gossipy talk: Hijacking the preference structure for ingroup belonging. Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis across Disciplines9, 5-22.
  • Meade, M. & Robles, J. S. (2017). Historical and existential coherence in political commercials. Discourse & Communication11, 404-432.