John Heritage

John Heritage

Professor Emeritus


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Curriculum Vitae

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My research focuses on the sphere of social organization that Erving Goffman calls the “interaction order”.

This involves looking at social interaction from the point of view of how it is constructed, the social, cultural and psychological factors that impact its implementation, and its impact on social outcomes, including the distribution of goods and services and the (re-)production of social structure.

Currently my work is concentrated on three broad areas. First there is the interaction order itself, which I approach as a conversation analyst. Here my recent work has focused on ways in which persons claim (and defer to) authority in interaction, and the identities that are invoked and validated in this way.

I also do research on interaction in political arenas: this work includes the analysis of political speeches and audience reactions to them, a number of works on the news interview as a genre of political communication and, most recently, a historical study of presidential news conferences over the past 50 years.

The third, and largest, part of my current research program focuses on interaction in medicine. I have published a number of papers on interactions between new mothers and community health nurses, on decision-making in health care contexts including surgery and antibiotics prescribing, and on social interaction in general primary care. My current projects include research on interventions to improve cancer screening rates, communication within primary care teams, and experimental interventions to test specific changes in the ways physicians communicate with patients. I am also closely involved in studies of antibiotics prescribing, and methods of intervening to alleviate chronic pediatric pain.


Ph. D., University of Leeds


Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology (1984). Cambridge, Polity Press.

Structures of Social Action: Studies in Conversation Analysis (1984). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. [Co-edited with Max Atkinson]

Talk at Work: Interaction in Institutional Settings (1992) Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. [Co-edited with Paul Drew]

The News Interview: Journalists and Public Figures on the Air (2002). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. [with Steven Clayman]

“Questioning Presidents: Journalistic deference and adversarialness in the press conferences of Eisenhower and Reagan.” Journal of Communication (2002) 52(4): 749-775. [with Steven Clayman]

“What Leads Physicians to Believe that Parents Expect Antibiotics? A Study Of Parent Communication Behaviors and Physicians’ Perceptions.” Journal of Family Practice (2003) 52(2): 140-148. [with Tanya Stivers, Rita Mangione-Smith, Marc Elliott and Laurie McDonald]

Communication in Medical Care. (2006) Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. [Co-edited with Douglas Maynard]

Talk in Action. (frth). Boston, Blackwell-Wiley. [with Steven Clayman]

Awards & Grants


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 2001-2004
Communication and satisfaction with primary care teams
Goal: To evaluate the contribution of nursing assistants to the overall delivery of quality in primary care visits, to assess information transfer between nursing assistants and physicians and to evaluate the contribution of nursing assistants to patient satisfaction with medical care.

National Science Foundation: 2001-2003
The Evolution of Questioning in Presidential Press Conferences
Goal: To establish the nature, patterns and causes of growing adversarial questioning in presidential press conferences during the post-war period.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 2003-2005
Addressing Patients’ Multiple Concerns in Primary Care
Goal: To test a communication intervention on physician’s ability to deal with patients presenting multiple concerns.