Why it's ok for Richard to touch Joan

Denman A, Wilkinson R. Applying conversation analysis to traumatic brain injury: Investigating touching another person in everyday social interaction. Disabil Rehabil. 2011;33(3):243-252

PURPOSE: Touching others, particularly the opposite sex, is a relatively common and problematic behaviour evident in many people with traumatic brain injury (TBI), in particular males. Here, we analyse this behaviour in a man with TBI (Richard) who regularly engages in inappropriate touching of women. The article draws on video-recordings of two naturally occurring social interactions between Richard and Joan (one of his carers) to analyse all six instances within these interactions where Richard touches Joan. METHOD: The recordings were made by leaving a video-recorder in Richard's home where he is supported by members of a care team. The socio-linguistic method of conversation analysis was used to transcribe and analyse the data. RESULTS: The analysis shows that each of the six instances of the touching behaviour occurred not as a random or isolated event in the interaction but rather in accompaniment with talk as part of a particular conversational action. Specifically, the conversational action in each case was produced in an emphatic or heightened style, with this style constituted by Richard touching Joan as well as by his use of a number of other resources such as eye gaze and the use of stress. CONCLUSIONS: The analysis suggests that the touching behaviours in this case were linked not so much to physical opportunities (which were available through much of these interactions) but rather to what conversational action was being produced at that particular sequential context within the interaction. For example, several instances of touching occurred as part of emphatically produced conversational actions where a previous, non-emphatic, production of that action had not been accepted or responded to by Joan. Clinical implications, such as suggestions for prophylactic management on the part of those interacting with people with TBI, are discussed.


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