Attitudes and evaluative practices: category vs. item and subjective vs. objective constructions in everyday food assessments
2012-03-19T10:22:43Z (GMT) by
In social psychology, evaluative expressions have traditionally been understood in terms of their relationship to, and as the expression of, underlying ‘attitudes’. In contrast, discursive approaches have started to study evaluative expressions as part of varied social practices, considering what such expressions are doing rather than their relationship to attitudinal objects or other putative mental entities. In this study the latter approach will be used to examine the construction of food and drink evaluations in conversation. The data are taken from a corpus of family mealtimes recorded over a period of months. The aim of this study is to highlight two distinctions that are typically obscured in traditional attitude work (‘subjective’ vs. ‘objective’ expressions, category vs. item evaluations). A set of extracts is examined to document the presence of these distinctions in talk that evaluates food and the way they are used and rhetorically developed to perform particular activities (accepting/refusing food, complimenting the food provider, persuading someone to eat). The analysis suggests that researchers (a) should be aware of the potential significance of these distinctions; (b) should be cautious when treating evaluative terms as broadly equivalent and (c) should be cautious when blurring categories and instances. This analysis raises the broader question of how far evaluative practices may be specific to particular domains, and what this specificity might consist in. It is concluded that research in this area could benefit from starting to focus on the role of evaluations in practices and charting their association with specific topics and objects.