"That proves my point": How mediums reconstrue disconfirmation in medium-sitter interactions

Paul Dickerson, Anette Enoksen

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Previous research has examined how the talk of mediums attends to the epistemological status of their readings. Such work has identified that mediums frequently use question-framed propositions that are typically confirmed by the sitter, thereby conferring epistemological status on the medium. This study seeks to investigate what happens when the sitter disconfirms the propositions of the medium. The study focuses on the ways in which such disconfirmation can be responded to such that it is reconstrued as evidence of the psychic nature of the medium’s reading. Televised demonstrations of psychic readings involving British and US mediums and their sitters are analysed. The results suggest that
mediums rework disconfirmation as proof in several ways: first, by emphasizing the different access that sitter and medium have to knowledge (e.g., about the future); second, as evidence that the medium has access to the actual voice of the deceased (and may therefore mishear what the deceased has said to them); and third, as revealing an important truth that has hitherto been concealed from the sitter. The implications of these findings are considered for cases where speakers bring different and potentially competing, epistemological resources to an interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-403
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2018

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