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Eating your words : discursive psychology and the reconstruction of eating practices

Wiggins, Sally and Potter, Jonathan and Wildsmith, Aimee (2001) Eating your words : discursive psychology and the reconstruction of eating practices. Journal of Health Psychology, 6 (1). pp. 5-15. ISSN 1359-1053

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Psychological research into eating practices has focused mainly on attitudes and behaviour towards food, and disorders of eating. Using experimental and questionnaire-based designs, these studies place an emphasis on individual consumption and cognitive appraisal, overlooking the interactive context in which food is eaten. The current article examines eating practices in a more naturalistic environment, using mealtime conversations tape-recorded by families at home. The empirical data highlight three issues concerning the discursive construction of eating practices, which raise problems for the existing methodologies. These are: (1) how the nature and evaluation of food are negotiable qualities; (2) the use of participants' physiological states as rhetorical devices; and (3) the variable construction of norms of eating practices. The article thus challenges some key assumptions in the dominant literature and indicates the virtues of an approach to eating practices using interactionally based methodologies.