Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 6 Issue 3 (August 1996), Pages fmi-fmi, 157-231

A Conversation Analysis of the ‘Acquiescence’ of People with Learning Disabilities (pages 207-227)


Contrary to received wisdom, ‘acquiescence bias’ in the responses of people with learning disabilities to questioning is not a simple phenomenon, and certainly not one to be laid at the door solely of people with learning disabilities themselves. Rather, it is probably an artefact of the conversational organization of interviews as tests. Analysis of Quality of Life assessment interviews show, we argue, that there is probably no uniform ‘acquiescent’ motivation which accounts for all inconsistencies and agreements that might be produced under such circumstances. Rather, the interview's logic produces a range of pseudo‐acquiescent responses in the face of interviewers reformulations, and their pursuit of plausible and acceptable answers. There is also evidence of ‘anti‐acquiescence’, in which respondents resist pressure to change their answers. We conclude that the traditional notion of submissive, willing‐to‐please acquiescence is probably unsustainable on current evidence, and ought to be replaced by a more respectful account of the linguistic and interpersonal competence of people with learning disabilities.

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