PSYC3004: Mind, Meaning and Discourse

Module Leader   Dave Hiles    (Room: H0.17b)

[ PSYC3004 Bulletin Board ]

[ Seminar Groups ]

[Lecture Notes]

[Copy of 2002/2003 exam paper]

Teaching Mode:-

Semester 1 (i.e. Teaching Weeks 1 - 12)
Lectures 24 hrs 
Tutorials 5 hrs (Wks. 2 to 12)
Exam 3 hrs (Wks. 16/17)
Student centred learning 88 hrs

Module Aims:-

  1. to introduce students to the social constructionist approach to psychology;
  2. to provide a theoretical overview of the study of discourse and other social practices from a semiotic, psychoanalytic, cultural and narrative theory perspective;
  3. to relate the study of discourse to a study of mind.

Module Objectives:-

  1. students will understand the basic principles of social constructionism, and be able to relate these to the psychology of social interaction, identity, personality and experience;
  2. students will understand the theoretical ideas and practical applications emerging from recent developments in discursive psychology, cultural psychology and narrative psychology;
  3. students will grasp how a discursive approach to psychology requires a qualitative research methodology, and a general "rethinking" of psychology.


One three hour examination.
Participation in seminars, bulletin board, etc.

Module Rationale

This module provides a theoretical overview of psychology from a social constructionist perspective. There is particular emphasis on a discursive approach to the understanding of human action. The central theme of the module is the complex inter-relationship that exists between communication, mental processes and human behaviour. An in-depth study of discursive and cultural psychology is presented by taking examples from human memory, personality, and social practices such as counselling and psychotherapy. This approach is also related to postmodern, psychoanalytic and humanistic perspectives. Emphasis is placed on the view that one particular form of discourse, narrative, is a pervasive form of human communication, integral to human cognition and crucial to the reception and production of cultural realities. The module will help students to confront many of the critical and contentious issues raised by the scientific study of behaviour, together with the need for a qualitative approach to psychological research. The module will provide an important perspective that will be taken up in the Conceptual Issues in Psychology module.

Teaching and Learning Strategy

The series of 24 lectures begin in Week 1, and will take place in Bosworth House, and the seminars in the Clephan Building. You should be timetabled for TWO hours of lectures per week, and ONE seminar every other week (i.e. Odd/Even - five seminars in total). You are assigned to a seminar group which will follow a rota of topics. Please note that these seminars are important, and that they will start in Week 2/3. If you are confused, or there is a mistake in your timetable, then see the module leader immediately.

There is NO coursework assignment for this module, but you will be expected to meet the requirements of the student centred learning, i.e. set reading of the Key Text and Supplementary Reading, contributions to the Bulletin Board. Seminars will emphasize the practical analysis of spoken, written and social discourse, and the work involved will be reflected in the final exam paper.

All announcements, communications, timetables/rotas for this module will be posted on the Notice Board to be located in the Hawthorn Building.


PSYC3004: Teaching Programme

Lectures:- There will be 2 hrs of lectures for this module each week of the semester, i.e. Weeks 1 - 12 in BH0.3.

1.  Lec. 1: The Social Constructionist Perspective. (Burr - 1)
The social model of mind. Social constructionism (Harré, Gergen). Psychology as an empirical, cultural and human science.
     Lec. 2: Rethinking Psychology. Mind, meaning and discursive practice. Cultural psychology (Wundt, Vygotsky, Bruner). The Second Cognitive Revolution (Harré & Gillett). Context and human action.

2.  Lec. 3: The "Discursive Turn". (Burr - 2) The case for social constructionism. Discursive psychology (Edwards & Potter; Mair; Harré). Situated/occasioned action. Human action as discursive practice.
     Lec. 4: Mind and the "Prison-house of language". (Burr - 3) Language and social action.

3.  Lec. 5: Rethinking Research Methods in Psychology. (Burr - 8) Qualitative research and disciplined inquiry. 
     Lec. 6: Discourse Analysis. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

4.  Lec. 7: Discourse, Power & Reality. (Burr -  4 & 5) Language and power (Foucault). Discourse, ideology and reality (Parker, Potter).
     Lec. 8: Joking and the ownership of language. Postmodern contexts.

5.  Lec. 9: Discourse, Subjectivity & Agency. (Burr - 6 & 7) The person as discourse-user. Identity, subject positions, positioning and subjectivity. Self, agency and change. 
     Lec. 10: Memories and Situated Occasioned Action. (Burr - 7) John Dean's memory (Neisser; Edwards & Potter). Discursive analysis of memory: Verbatim, gist, repisodic, metamemory, confabulation.

6.  Lec. 11 & 12: Power and Meaning in Social Relationships   (Michael Larkin)

7.  Lec. 13&14: Race - The Floating Signifier. Physical differences between people are far less important than the meanings given to these differences. Race is a discursive construct (Stuart Hall: video + discussion).

8.  Lec. 15&16: Narrative Psychology. The narrative turn psychology (Sarbin, Bruner, Polkinghorne). The narrative construction of reality. Narrative reframing. Self construction in narrative (Sacks, Kerby).

9.  Lec. 17&18: Humanisitic Perspectives: The cry for myth. Humanistic approaches to myth & folklore (Rollo May, Bruno Bettleheim). Cultural and social practices. The functions of narrative.

10.  Lec. 19:  Illness Narratives    (Brown)
      Lec. 20:  Transexual Narratives   (Ceri Parsons)

11.  Lec. 21&22: Healing Narratives. Counselling and psychotherapy as situated action. Narrative therapy (Mair, Polkinghorne, Spence, Schafer, McLeod). Freud and the fragmentary self - the discursive contexts of transference, projection, identity, neurosis, etc. Lacan's interpretation of Freud.

12.  Lec. 23: Discourse from the Crib - Developmental perspectives.  Crib-narratives (Nelson). The (E)merging Subject. Proto-narratives: fort-da game (Freud).
       Lec. 24: Revision. (Burr - 9) Themes, voices, tensions, constructions for an emerging Cultural Psychology.


Key Text:

      Burr, V. (2003) Social Constructionism. 2nd Edition. Routledge.  (This is a NEW edition, do not buy the old edition!)
(Module Introductory Reading:-  Chap 1 and Chap2)

             (n.b. references above to chapters in this essential text use the following notation:-  e.g. Burr - 2 & 3)


Supplementary Reading:

Bruner, J. (1990) Acts of Meaning. Harvard University Press.

Edwards, D. & Potter, J. (1992) Discursive Psychology. Sage. (Chap. 2)

Hiles, D. (2002) An Introduction to Narrative Psychology. (Draft manuscript).

Smith, J., Harré, R. & Van Langhenhove, L. (1995a) Rethinking Psychology. Sage.

Smith, J.A., Jarman, M. & Osborn, M. (1999) Doing interpretative phenomenolgical analysis. In M. Murray & K. Chamberlain (Eds.) Qualitative Health Psychology. Sage.


Seminar Programme

Participation in seminars for this module is a requirement. Failure to attend without good reason will be reported to your Subject Authority Board, and will be reflected in your Overall Assessment where examination marks are borderline.

You are assigned to a seminar group, and will follow a rota of five topics over the teaching weeks 2 - 12. See the timetable, published at the beginning of Semester 1, for further details. (SCL - Student Centred Learning - this is REQUIRED READING).

Wk 2/3 Topic 1: An introduction to social constructionism. [SCL: Burr - 1 & 2; Hiles 1996b]

Wk 4/5 Topic 2: Analysing discourse: Jokes and their discursive context. [SCL: Burr - 9]

Wk 6/7 Topic 3: Memory, truth & discourse (Memory as situated action). [SCL: Edwards & Potter; Hiles 1996a]

Wk 8/9 Topic 4: Theorizing human differences (Race, gender, age, class, sexuality, disability, etc). [SCL: Burr - 6; Notes on Stuart Hall’s lecture]

Wk 11/12 Topic 5: Narrative thinking. [SCL: Hiles 2002]



During Weeks 16/17 (approx) there will be a 3 hour unseen examination for the whole module, and this will count towards 100% of the Overall Module Mark. Further details will be circulated later. Previous examination papers for this module are available here.

Students are also invited to contribute to the PSYC3004 Module Bulletin Board available on the DMU Electronic Campus. This is an opportunity to respond to a range of topics, to enter into debate, and for all students to contribute to the creation of a major resource for the module. Contributions will be considered with respect to borderline module marks.



Further Reading & Background References, etc.

This fairly comprehensive reference list is provided as a resource for students to further their exploration of the issues and topics raised in the module, or simply to follow up references given in lectures.

n.b. The KEY TEXTS above are essential, and will be referred to extensively. Supplementary Reading is required reading and will be made available to students on SHORT LOAN in the library. The Further Reading list provides important texts for reference available in the Scraptoft Library. Background References gives a listing of the main references used in lectures and tutorials, and will be useful for pursuing a topic in depth, or for future study.


Further Reading:

Banister, P., Burman, E., Parker, I., Taylor, M. & Tindall, C. (1994) Qualitative Methods in Psychology. OU Press.

Edwards, D. (1997) Discourse and Cognition. Sage.

Engel, S. (1999) Context is everything: The nature of memory. Freeman.

Gergen, K.J. (1985) The social constructionist movement in modern psychology. Amer. Psychologist, 40, 266-75.

Gergen, K.J. (1999) An Invitation to Social Constructionism. Sage.

Harré, R. (1998) The Singular Self: An introduction to the psychology of personhood. Sage

Harré, R. & Gillet, G. (1994) The Discursive Mind. Sage

Harré, R. & Secord, P.F. (1972) The Explanation of Social Behaviour. Blackwell.

Harré, R. & Stearns, P. (1995) Discursive Psychology in Practice. Sage.

Hiles, D. (1996b) Cultural Psychology and the Centre-ground of Psychology. 26th ICP, Montreal. [ Available here ]

Hiles, D. (1999) Paradigms Lost - Paradigms Regained. 18th IHSRC, Sheffield, July 26 -29.

Mair, M. (1989) Psychology as a discipline of discourse. BPS Psychotherapy Section Newsletter, No. 7.

May, R. (1991) The Cry for Myth. Souvenir Press.

Nelson, K. (Ed.) (1989) Narratives from the Crib. Harvard University Press.

Nightingale, D.J. & Cromby, J. (1999) Social Constructionist Psychology: A critical analysis of theory and practice. Open University Press.

Polkinghorne, D.E. (1988) Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. SUNY Press.

Potter, J. (1996) Representing Reality: Discourse, rhetoric and social construction. Sage.

Potter, J. & Wetherall, M. (1987) Discourse and Social Psychology: Beyond Attitudes and Behaviour. Sage.

Sacks, O. (1986) The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. Pan Books.

Sarbin, T.R. (1986). Narrative as a root metaphor in psychology. In T.R. Sarbin (Ed.) Narrative Psychology: The storied nature of human conduct. Praeger.

Shotter, J. & Gergen, K.J. (1989) Texts of Identity. Sage.

Smith, J., Harré, R. & Van Langhenhove, L. (1995b) Rethinking Methods in Psychology. Sage.


Background References:

Cultural Psychology, Language and Thought

Aitchison, J. (1995) Introducing Language and Mind. Penguin.

Brislin, R. (1993) Understanding Culture's Influence on Behaviour. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Bruner, J. (1986) Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Harvard University Press.

Carroll, J.B. (Ed) (1964) Language, Thought and Reality: Selected writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. MIT Press.

Cole, M. (1990) "Cultural Psychology: A once and future discipline?" In J.J. Barman (ed.), Cross-cultural

Perspectives, Nebraska Symposium on Motivation 1989. Univ. of Nebraska Press.

Dennett, D.C. (1993 [1991]) Consciousness Explained. Penguin.

Gauld, A. & Shotter, J. (1977) Human Action and its Psychological Investigation. RKP.

Goldberger, N.R. & Veroff, J.B. (eds) (1995) The Culture and Psychology Reader. New York University Press.

Griswold, W. (1994) Cultures and Societies in a Changing World. Pine Forge Press.

Groat, L. (1995) Giving places meaning (Readings in environmental psychology series). Academic Press.

Grodin, D. & Lindlof, T.R. (Eds) (1996) Constructing the Self in a Mediated World. Sage.

Hartland, J. (1991) Language & Thought. BPS Books.

Humphrey, N. (1992) A History of Mind. Vintage.

Jahoda, G. (1992) Crossroads Between Culture and Mind: Continuities and change in theories of human nature.

Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Jenks, C. (1993) Culture. Routledge.

Lee, D. (1992) Competing Discourses: Perspective and ideology in language. Longman.

Middleton, D. & Edwards, D. (1990) Collective Remembering. Sage.

Pinker, S. (1995) The Language Instinct: The new science of language and mind. Penguin.

Sapir, E. (1994 [1928/39]) The Psychology of Culture. (Edited and reconstructed by J.T. Irvine). Mouton de Gruyter.

Shore, B. (1996) Culture in Mind: Cognition, culture, and the problem of meaning. OUP.

Showalter, E. (1997) Hystories: Hysterical epidemics and modern culture. Picador.

Shweder, R.A. (1991) Thinking Through Cultures: Expeditions in cultural psychology. Harvard.

Shweder, R.A. & Sullivan, M.A. (1993) Cultural Psychology: Who needs it? Annual Review of Psychology. 44, 497-523.

Trevarthen, C. (1995) The child's need to learn a culture. Children & Society, 9, 5-19.


Social Construction and Discourse Analysis

Burman, E. & Parker, I. (1993) Discourse Analytic Research: Repertoires and readings of texts in action. Routledge.

Gergen, K.J. (1991) The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of identity in contemporary life. Basic Books

Gergen, K.J. (1993) Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge. (2nd Ed.) Sage.

Gergen, K.J. (1994) Realities and Relationships: Soundings in social construction. Harvard.

Gergen, K.J. & Davis, K.E. (Eds) (1985) The Social Construction of the Person. Springer-Verlag.

Parker, I. (1992) Discourse Dynamics: Critical analysis for social and individual psychology. Routledge.

Parker, I. (Ed.) (1998) Social Constructionism, Discourse and Realism. Sage.

Purdie, S. (1993) Comedy: The mastery of discourse. Harvester.

Sarbin, T.R. & Kitsuse, J.I. (Eds.) (1994) Constructing the Social. Sage.

Shotter, J. (1993) Conversational Realities: Constructing life through language. Sage.

Wetherell, M. & Potter, J. (1992) Mapping the Language of Racism: Discourse and the legitimation of

exploitation. Harvester Wheatsheaf.


Therapeutic Discourse

Basch, M.F. (1988) Understanding Psychotherapy: The science behind the art. Basic Books.

Cox, M. & Theilgaard, A. (1987) Mutative Metaphors in Psychotherapy. Tavistock.

Freedman, J. & Combs, G. (1996) Narrative Therapy: The social construction of preferred realities. Norton.

Luria, A. R. (1975) The Man With a Shattered World. Penguin.

Macmillan, A. (1989) Developmental Narratives: The construction of life stories in therapy. BPS Psychotherapy

Section Newsletter, No. 7, pp. 19-27.

McNamee, S. & Gergen, K.J. (1992) Therapy as Social Construction. Sage.

Neimeyer, R.A. & Mahoney, M.J. (1995) Constructivism in Psychotherapy. APA.

Phillips, A. (1993) On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored. Faber & Faber.

Rogers, R. (1991) Self and Other: Object relations in psychoanalysis and literature. New York University Press.

Schafer, R. (1976) A New Language for Psychoanalysis. Yale University Press.

Schafer, R. (1992) Retelling a Life: Narration and dialogue in psychoanalysis. Basic.

Shepherd, V. (1990) Language Variety and the Art of the Everyday. Pinter Pub.

Spence, D.P. (1982) Narrative Truth versus Historical Truth: Meaning and interpretation in psychoanalysis. Norton.

Vaillant, G.E. (1993) The Wisdom of the Ego. Harvard.

Watzlawick, P., Beavin, J.H. & Jackson, D.D. (1967) Pragmatics of Human Communication: A study of interactional patterns, pathologies, and paradoxes. Norton.

Winnicott, D. (1971) Playing and Reality. Tavistock.


Recovered Memories and Psychoanalytic theory

Apignanesi, R. & Zarate, O. (1992) Freud for Beginners. Icon Books.

British Psychological Society (1995) Recovered Memories. The report of the Working Party of the BPS. nb. This is no longer available on the Internet.

Frosh, S. (1987) The Politics of Psychoanalysis. Macmillan.

Frosh, S. (1994) Psychoanalysis and Psychology: Minding the gap. Macmillan.

Grosz, E. (1990) Jacques Lacan: A feminist introduction. Routledge.

Hiles, D. (1996a) Recovered Memories: A discursive psychology model. 26th ICP, Montreal.

Lacan, J. (1979) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Penguin.

Leader, D. & Groves, J. (1995) Lacan for Beginners. Icon Books.

Lemaire, A. (1970 (Trans. D. Macey) Jacques Lacan. Routledge.

Loftus, E. (1993) The reality of repressed memories. Amer. Psychologist, 48, 518-537.

Mollon, P. (1998) Remembering Trauma: A psychotherapist’s guide to memory and illusion. Wiley.

Neisser, U. & Fivush, R. (1994) The Remembering Self: Construction and accuracy in the self-narrative. CUP.

Pope, K.S. (1996) Memory, Abuse, and Science: Questioning claims about the false memory syndrome epidemic. Amer. Psychologist, 51, 957-974.

Pope, K.S. (1997) Science as Careful Questioning: Are claims of a false memory syndrome epidemic based on empirical evidence. Amer. Psychologist, 52, 997-1006.

Sarup, M. (1992) Jacques Lacan. Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Stevens, R. (1983) Freud and Psychoanalysis. Open University Press.

Symmington, N. (1986) The Analytic Experience. Free Association Press.

In addition, the following papers by Freud are found in the respective volume of the Penguin Freud Library (PFL), or in several collections published independently. These are short in length and very readable.

Jokes and their relation to the unconscious [1905] PFL6

Formulations on the two principles of mental functioning [1911] PFL11

Beyond the pleasure principle [1920] PFL11

An outline of psychoanalysis (1940) PFL15


Narrative and Myth

Britton, B.K. & Pellegrini, A.D. (1990) Narrative Thought and Narrative Language. LEA.

Bettelheim, B. (1976) The Uses of Enchantment: The meaning and importance of fairy tales. Penguin.

Engel, S. (1994) Narratives of Development. Freeman.

Fromm, E. (1951) The Forgotten Language. Grove Press.

Hiles, D. (1994) Narrative as a Sequence of Motivated Signs. 5th Congress IASS, San Francisco.

Kerby, A.P. (1991) Narrative and the Self. Indiana University Press.

McLeod, J. (1997) Narrative and Psychotherapy. Sage.

Mumby, D.K. (1993) Narrative and Social Control. Sage.

Propp, V. (1968) Morphology of the Folktale. (trans.) University of Texas Press.

Riessman, C.K. (1993) Narrative Analysis. Sage.

Sarbin, T.R.(Ed.) (1986). Narrative Psychology: The storied nature of human conduct. Praeger.

Zipes, J. (1983) Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion. Heinemann.



Post-modernism, Ideology, Social & Critical Theory, etc

Anderson, W.T. (1990) Reality Isn’t What It Used To Be. Harper.

Anderson, W.T. (Ed) (1995) The Truth About the Truth: De-confusing and re-constructing the postmodern world. Tarcher/Putnam.

Bottomore, T. (1984) The Frankfurt School. Tavistock.

Cain, M. & Harrington, C.B. (Eds.) (1994) Lawyers in a Postmodern World: Translation and transgression. OU Press.

Easthope, A. & McGowan , K. (Eds.) (1992) A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader. OU Press.

Elliott, A. (1992) Social Theory & Psychoanalysis in Transition: Self and society from Freud to Kristeva. Blackwell.

Foucault, M. (1972) The Archaeology of Knowledge, & The Discourse on Language. Pantheon.

Grosz, E. (1990) Jacques Lacan: A feminist introduction. Routledge.

Held, D. (1980) Introduction to Critical Theory: Horkheimer to Habermas. Hutchinson.

Henriques, J., Holloway, W., Urwin, C., Venn, C. & Walkerdine, V. (1984) Changing the Subject: Psychology,

social regulation and subjectivity. Methuen.

Jameson, F. (1972) The Prison-House of Language. Princeton University Press.

Jameson, F. (1981) The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a socially symbolic act. Methuen.

Kvale, S. (Ed.) (1992) Psychology and Postmodernism. Sage.

Leavy, S.A. (1980) The Psychoanalytic Dialogue. Yale University Press.

Sarup, M. (1993) An Introductory Guide to Post-structuralism and Post-modernism. (2nd Ed.) Harvester.

Scott, J. (1995) Sociological Theory: Contemporary debates. Edward Elgar.




Journal of Language and Social Psychology




The following websites can be accessed on the Internet, many are rich in links to further sites. If these fail, or if you find others that are particularly useful, please tell me about them.

Kenneth Gergen:-

The Virtual Faculty:-


Psyche Matters:-

Janus Head:-

Narrative Psychology:-

Some good introductions to (Post)Modern Thought:-




© Dave Hiles 2001, 2002, 2003