Turning the spotlight – University of Copenhagen

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Turning the spotlight: Looking at the interviewers

– A dialogical approach to interaction analysis of two interviewers' sociolinguistic interviews with a personality psychological perspective on the interviewers.

Very often, the speech of the person being interviewed is taken as the outcome of an interview. In this thesis, interviews are approached dialogically with a special focus on the interviewer. I study how the interviewers act in interviews which they themselves classify as their best and worst interview and compare these with their own ideals expressed in an interview. Furthermore, I study whether a personality test may throw light on the differences between the interviewers.

The particular genre of interviews in focus is the sociolinguistic interview. And the data studied consist of interviews conducted by a female and a male interviewer in the same study carried out by the LANCHART Centre. The studies show a clear difference between the interviews classified as their best and worst interviews respectively. Among other things, the interviewers tend to take more initiatives to change the topic and to pose questions more frequently in their worst interviews compared with their best.

Furthermore, the female interviewer and the informant in her best interview succeed in achieving rapport, whereas she and the informant in her worst interview do not achieve rapport. Additionally, the interactants do careful face work in her best interview, but not in her worst interview. Moreover, the number of dispreferred responses to assessments and the number of next turn repair initiators show clear differences between the female interviewer's best and worst interview.

The study confirms differences in the good and the bad interview. However, at the same time, they reveal a great complexity which makes it clear that the successful and the unsuccessful interviews are not characterized by the same features or lack of them. Furthermore, the study shows that even though the two interviewers express the same points about the good sociolinguistic interview they seem to put them into practice in different ways.

Studying a number of interviews conducted by each of the interviewers, a consistent interview style for each of the two interviewers emerges. The female interviewer has features which are characterized as a risky and potentially face-threatening interview style, whereas the male interviewer has a less risky and rather flexible interview style. Their characteristic interactional features are (vaguely) found to correlate with the results of a NEO PI-R personality test. However, the connection is too vague to predict or fully account for the particular, individual characteristics found for each of the interviewers.

The thesis involve both knowledge from numerous interaction studies as well as psychological theories and terms and stress the advantages of interdisciplinary work in which methods, theories, and empirical evidence within the traditionally separate areas – interaction studies and psychology – contribute to throw light on each other's areas and on complex problems considered relevant to address within both areas.

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