Getting Closer at a Distance: Theory and the Contingencies of Practice

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In general it is very hard to document clear applications of the content of psychological theory. While deconstruction reveals the binary organization and contingency of accounts of theory and application in psychology, nevertheless there is a desire to be useful to the organizations that we engage with as researchers. This dilemma is illustrated through a personal narrative of my involvement as a researcher with a UK charitable organization—the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). As the research has developed it has become an attempt to explicate and make visible current practice on the NSPCC helpline. This move will be illustrated using the example of extreme emotion, and in particular callers' crying. In terms of utility the research emerges as an attempt to turn practices into strategies, where the kinds of embodied, untheorized, practices in which people engage in a highly occasioned and finessed way are explicated, allowing them to be turned into strategies, for example of good practice or communication breakdown. These traces will help to interrogate simple stories about theory and application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-342
Number of pages16
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Helpline interaction
  • application
  • crying
  • deconstruction
  • discursive psychology

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