Mutual negotiation of the interviewee’s competence in interview interaction

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In this chapter cognitive competence is understood from ethnomethodological, gerontological and conversation analytical points-of-view. I argue these understandings intertwine together in interview interaction. Through conversation analysis of video recordings made from clinical assessment interviews (n = 42), I provide empirical evidence on how ‘being a competent member’ is an observable and reportable achievement in interaction. The analysis focuses on interview talk that directly topicalizes competence and shows how participants design their turns-of-talk differently depending on the assessment of recipient’s competence. While receiving responses interviewers may take part into the negotiation of interviewees’ competence with three practices that emerged in the data analysis: interviewers may (1) upgrade respondents’ tentatively positive answers, (2) disagree with respondents’ negative or reserved response toward positive outcome, and (3) apologize for questioning competent respondents. These actions allow interviewers to modulate speaker pressure, which in turn has effects on respondents’ competence.


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