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Why Do You Ask?The Function of Questions in Institutional Discourse$
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Alice Freed and Susan Ehrlich

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195306897

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195306897.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 11 May 2021

Questioning in Medicine

Questioning in Medicine

3 Questioning in Medicine
Why Do You Ask?

John Heritage

Oxford University Press

This chapter, written by John Heritage, provides an overview of the author's main findings on questioning in doctor‐patient interactions. Heritage pays particular attention to the way that questions in medical contexts are designed to communicate information about doctors' expectations and beliefs and thereby limit the way that patients can appropriately respond. Heritage identifies two principles of medical questioning that illustrate this phenomenon of recipient design: optimization and problem attentiveness. He argues that the principle of optimization, that is, designing questions so that they grammatically “prefer” a “no‐problem” response, is the default principle of medical questioning; such optimized questions encourage patients to produce responses that confirm optimistic beliefs about their health. By contrast, in certain situations (e.g., when a patient presents with a particular problem) the principle of problem attentiveness informs the design of questions; that is, the questions presuppose that a particular health problem exists rather than encouraging a no‐problem response.

Keywords:   doctor‐patient interactions, questioning in medicine, question design, optimization, problem attentiveness, “no‐problem” response, recipient design

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