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‘I’m calling in regard to my son’: Entitlement, obligation, and opportunity to seek help for others

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posted on 2021-03-03, 03:41 authored by Emma TennentEmma Tennent
© 2020 The British Psychological Society From mundane acts like lending a hand to high-stakes incidents like calling an ambulance, help is a ubiquitous part of the human experience. Social relations shape who we help and how. This paper presents a discursive psychology study of an understudied form of help – seeking help for others. Drawing on a corpus of recorded calls to a victim support helpline, I analysed how social relations were demonstrably relevant when callers sought help for others. I used membership categorization analysis and sequential conversation analysis to document how participants used categories to build and interpret requests for help on behalf of others. Categorical relationships between help-seekers, help-recipients, and potential help-providers were consequential in determining whether callers’ requests were justified and if help could be provided. The findings show that different categorical relationships configured seeking help for others as a matter of entitlement, obligation, or opportunity. Analysing the categories participants use in naturally occurring social interaction provides an emic perspective on seeking help for others. This kind of help-seeking offers a fruitful area for discursive psychology to develop new conceptualizations of help and social relations.


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Tennent, E. (2020). ‘I’m calling in regard to my son’: Entitlement, obligation, and opportunity to seek help for others. British Journal of Social Psychology.

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British Journal of Social Psychology

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