A successful launch for the HI Lab

The HI Lab launch audience

Last Friday 29th September we had a launch for the new Human Interaction Lab at Tufts. We were lucky enough to have a great line-up of speakers including our director, Prof. J. P. de Ruiter, who gave a talk introducing to some key practical and philosophical problems in the study of human interaction entitled “How psychologists should not study interaction”.

You can find abstracts and additional readings for Professor De Ruiter’s talk and for our other speakers’ talks on the launch invite.

Professor Jonathan Potter launches the HI LabProf. De Ruiter’s talk also provided a great introduction to Prof. Jonathan Potter’s presentation: “A discursive approach to psychological matters”, which gave a brief introduction to the history and motivations of Discursive Psychology (which, as we learned in the talk, involves the application of Conversation Analysis and Ethnomethodology to key themes and topics in Psychology). Prof. Potter then showed how we could use this empirical approach to address key topics in psychology e.g. attitudes, memory and attribution, by examining the details of interactional conduct.

Professor Alexa Hepburn launches the HI LabProfessor Alexa Hepburn then gave us a wonderful taste of what this research field actually looks like by handing out sheets of transcribed phone call data and guiding us through an analysis of emotion in interaction. She demonstrated how emotion can function in very different ways: as an impediment to ongoing talk on a child support referral helpline, as the ‘main business’ of a call between intimate friends or family, and how eliciting emotional responses and displays can work as a diagnostic tool for a therapist in a psychotherapy session.

We gave our guests a tour of the brand new HI Lab, and they graced our cameras with our very first lab recording!

We would like to extend our thanks again to our speakers, and to all who came and supported our launch, and to the many people who made the lab launch possible, especially Chris Hogan and Cynthia Goddard for their sterling work as we prepared for lift off.

Snazzy HI Lab StickersYou can keep up with forthcoming events, news and data sessions at the HI Lab on our twitter feed or subscribe to our mailing list: a low-volume announcement list which we’ll use only when we have something new and exciting to tell you about.

Finally, we also gave away some swag: our snazzy high quality vinyl laptop stickers to celebrate the launch. We have a limited number of these to give away, so if you want one, you can come to one of our data sessions, or get in touch and we’ll send you one!



Human Interaction Lab data session: 26th October 2017

The Human Interaction Laboratory data session will meet on the 26th October 2017 in unit 2580, 200 Boston Ave. Medford, MA 02155 from 3-5pm (note the later time from last month). There is parking outside the building, please meet outside the lab on the second floor (follow the numbers around the corridor from on the second floor until you arrive at 2580.

If you don’t know what a data session is, you can read Saul’s description of learning about Conversation Analytic data sessions.

See our full list of data sessions on our events page.

Contact: saul.albert@tufts.edu / 857-222-5992 for more information or if you need directions once you arrive.

Data: For this session we will be looking at audio data from co-present interactions in the Conversation Analytic British National Corpus (CABNC) https://saulalbert.github.io/CABNC/. This open data repository includes rough but searchable and linguistically coded transcripts synced with hundreds of hours of recordings of made by people from a representative range of socio-demographic categories and regions in the UK carrying tape recorders around and capturing talk in their everyday lives. As well as looking at data together as usual, an additional aim of this session is to discuss the evidential constraints and analytic opportunities afforded by this  unusually large corpus of naturally occurring conversation.

In general, our data session look at a variety of data from everyday conversations and interaction in more constrained and institutional contexts. If you have some data you’d like to bring to the session – please contact saul.albert@tufts.edu.

keep in touch:

If you’d like information about upcoming data sessions and announcements at the Human Interaction Lab, please subscribe to our mailing list.

Human Interaction Lab Data Session #1: 28th September 2017

The Human Interaction Laboratory Data Analysis session (HILDA) will meet for its inaugural session on the 28th September 2017 in unit 2580, 200 Boston Ave. Medford, MA 02155.

If you don’t know what a data session is, you can read Saul’s description of learning about Conversation Analytic data sessions, or have a look at this new resource from Arizona State University that discusses language and social interaction data analysis sessions from a variety of methodological/disciplinary perspectives: https://www.learninghowtolookandlisten.com.

See our full list of data sessions on our events page.

RSVP: saul.albert@tufts.edu / 857-222-5992

Data: We will be looking at some transcripts and video data from Edward Reynolds‘ recordings of a New Hampshire USA and Canberra Australia powerlifting team from his ongoing investigations into power lifters’ practices of team-membership and mutual observation, and in these data we will focus on the mundane mathematical procedures of adding and removing various denominations of weights from a bar.

Keep in touch:

If you’d like information about upcoming data sessions and announcements at the Human Interaction Lab, please subscribe to our mailing list.

Human Interaction Lab Launch, 29th September 2017

Lab Director Prof. J. P. De Ruiter is very pleased to invite you to the launch of the Human Interaction Lab at Tufts University, where we will be joined by two distinguished speakers: Prof. Alexa Hepburn and Prof. Jonathan Potter from Rutgers School of Communication and Information.

The launch will be held in the Kreplick Conference Room, in the Psychology Department, 490 Boston Ave. Medford, MA 02155 from 9:45am-12:30 followed by lunch in the foyer of the Psychology building. Please RSVP here to make sure we order enough food and refreshments.


  • 9:45: Coffee / biscuits outside the Kreplick Conference Room
  • 10am to 10:45: Prof. J. P. De Ruiter: How psychologists should not study interaction.
  • 10:45 to 11:30: Prof. Jonathan Potter: A discursive approach to psychological matters
  • 11:30-12:15: Prof. Alexa Hepburn: Emotion in interaction: Identifying and responding to upset
  • 12:30-1:30: lunch and discussion in the Psychology building foyer


Prof J.P. de Ruiter: How psychologists should not study interaction.

I will introduce the Human Interaction Lab and our distinguished speakers with a talk that argues how and why human interaction cannot be studied properly using the traditional experimental methods that have been successful in other areas of the cognitive sciences. Of the many problems with these methods, I will focus on two important ones: (a) the trade-off between experimental control and ecological validity, and (b) problems regarding the quantification of interactive behavior.

Prof. Jonathan Potter: A discursive approach to psychological matters

This interactive session will introduce and overview the discursive approach to psychological matters.  It will illustrate the contrast from more familiar cognitivist perspectives by considering how and why notions of memory, attribution and attitude are respecified.   This respecification occasions different ways of thinking about data, method and analysis and opens up different pathways to social impact.  It will highlight specific issues about the role of interaction in the conduct of psychological research.

Related reading: 

Prof. Alexa Hepburn: Emotion in interaction: Identifying and responding to upset

The traditional psychological notion of empathy invokes a relationship between two individuals who may possess differing capacities for tuning into the emotional states of the other. This notion of empathy captures something interesting, but it was not developed in a way that is sensitive to what empathy looks like in practice. To develop empathy as an analytic topic, Jonathan Potter and I explored the practices through which it is produced in a UK child protection helpline (see Hepburn & Potter, 2012 for an overview). One common practice we noticed involved call takers͛ formulations of the caller’s experiences, for example, when call takers describe a caller’s experience or emotional state, there are certain things that they attend to, the most obvious being their lack of direct access to them, e.g. ͚’this must be very upsetting for you’. In this paper, I explore responses to upset in a further two contrasting domains – a call between two sisters, and a therapeutic consultation. Analysis will show how interactants in these different environments claim and display access to one another’s experiences, and what this can tell us about the relationship between empathic formulations and the institutional task at hand.

Related Reading

  • Hepburn, A. & Potter, J. (2012).  Crying and crying responses.  In A. Peräkylä & M-L. Sorjonen (Eds). Emotion in interaction (pp. 194-210).  Oxford: Oxford University Press.