Rue L. Cromwell (cromwell@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU)
Sun, 01 Oct 1995 14:34:08 -0400 (EDT)

Dear PCPeople:

Attached is a portion of a message on the psy-language discussion network. I
found it interesting. I hope you do also.


----- Forwarded message follows -----

Return-path: <>
Received: from by KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU (PMDF V5.0-4 #9008)
Sat, 30 Sep 1995 20:07:48 -0500 (CDT)
Received: by (8.6.12/Netcom) id AAA00441; Wed,
27 Sep 1995 00:41:33 -0700
Received: from by (8.6.12/Netcom)
id AAA00398; Wed, 27 Sep 1995 00:41:22 -0700
Received: from CASTOR.MMU.AC.UK by ehlana with SMTP (PP); Wed,
27 Sep 1995 08:17:53 +0100
Received: from GASKELL_CASTOR/CASTOR_MAIL by CASTOR.MMU.AC.UK (Mercury 1.13)
; Wed, 27 Sep 1995 08:18:05 +0000 (GMT)
Received: from CASTOR_MAIL by GASKELL_CASTOR (Mercury 1.13); Tue,
26 Sep 1995 19:25:28 +0000 (GMT)
Date: Tue, 26 Sep 1995 19:25:27 +0000 (GMT)
From: Eugenie Georgaca <>
Subject: silence...
Message-id: <1711627401C@CASTOR.MMU.AC.UK>
Organization: Manchester Metropolitan University
X-Mailer: Pegasus Mail v3.1 (R1a)
Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT
Priority: normal
Precedence: list



I am currently analysing interviews I conducted with individuals
diagnosed as delusional in a psychiatric ward. My aim is to look at
the linguistic, conversational and rhetorical strategies through
which 'reality' is negotiated between participants. The theoretical
background I am using -not without reservations- is ethnomethodology
and discourse analysis as it has been developed in psychology.

By examining the psychiatric theories on the formation of delusions,
it is clear that psychiatry subscribes to an empiricist view of
reality: individuals perceive reality, process it through their
cognitive capacities and reach conclusions about it. In opposition to
that I am using a social constructionist view of reality: we do not
have direct access to reality; our reality is socially constituted.
This translated to conversational terms, we construct versions of
reality as we talk. But we construct versions of reality presenting
it as independent from our perceptions, motivations etc. Common sense
views of reality are empiricist views. When we talk about 'what
happened to us' we carefully distinguish between what happened to us
independently of our will and what we feel, wish etc. Here is where
ethnomethodology comes into it. Ethnomethodology provides excellent
tools for describing in a neutral way the commonsense assumptions
that participants in a conversation use.

Through the analysis of my interviews with 'delusional' individuals,
I have found that we use the same assumptions about reality that
underlie both psychiatry and common sense. Moreover, I argue that
while we use these assumptions it is impossible to reach any final
conclusions about what constitutes reality and what doesn't. In other
words there is no way of conversationally settling the matter of
whether a claim on reality is true or false.

The implications of this for the psychiatric diagnosis of delusions
are difficult to overestimate. How can a psychiatrist decide on
whether a claim is true or false on the basis of one or multiple
interviews? To my view, they can't. Psychiatrists simply adopt the
powerful position of pressuposing that their views on what
constitutes reality are true, and diagnosing anything that deviates
from that as false, and, therefore, delusional.

I am sure that quite a lot of you would find it very difficult to
agree with such a strong statement. I have to say I am quite
convinced about it. I am currently in the process of writing up and
arguments both pro and against such a view would help.

Hoping to hear from you,


moderator of psy-language forum, Interpsych

Eugenie Georgaca,
Discourse Unit, Department of Psychology, The Manchester Metropolitan
University, Hathersage Road, Manchester M13 OJA, U.K..
tn: - 161 247 2596

----- End of Forwarded message -----

Rue L. Cromwell