Category Archives: Lecture

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.