Saturday, August 12, 2006


Somebody recently e-mailed me the following:

You might want to consider the "Documentary method of interpretation'': Garfinkel suggests that the way individuals bring order to, or make sense of their social world is through a psychological process, which he calls "the documentary method". This method firstly consists of selecting certain facts from a social situation, which seem to conform to a pattern and then making sense of these facts in terms of the pattern. Once the pattern has been established, it is used as a framework for interpreting new facts, which arise within the situation. Garfinkel did an 'experiment' of sorts in which he set up a supposed 'new' method of therapy. This new method was such that the therapist could only answer questions, and only answer them with a 'yes' or a 'no'. The patient would come into the room, and the 'therapist' would sit one side of a barrier, with the patient on the other (i.e., so they could only hear each other). The patient was informed that this was a new 'experimental' therapy in which (as I just mentioned) the therapist would only use yes or no answers. Anyway, so the patient begins to tell the therapist of any troubles they have, etc., and the therapist answers, however, what the patient didn't know was that the therapist's answers were simply *random* (reading out from a list) yes and nos. What they found was that the patient responded, rationalising the yes and nos to form a coherent and sensible meaning within the context in which they occurred. Contradictions made by the therapist (e.g., answering 'yes' and then 'no' to identical questions) were accounted for by the patient.

Well, I did consider it, but my considerations will have to wait for another posting.

1 comment:

stuaart said...

Good book choice.