Moral accounts and membership categorization in primary care medical interviews


  • Patrick J. Dillon University of South Florida



medical interviews, accounting, morality, Membership Categorisation Analysis


Although the link between health and morality has been well established, few studies have examined how issues of morality emerge and are addressed in primary care medical encounters. This paper addresses the need to examine morality as it is (re)constructed in everyday health care interactions. A Membership Categorisation Analysis of 96 medical interviews reveals how patients orient to particular membership categories and distance themselves from others as a means of accounting (Buttny 1993; Scott and Lyman 1968) for morally questionable health behaviours. More specifically, this paper examines how patients use membership categorisations in order to achieve specific social identity(ies) (Schubert et al. 2009) through two primary strategies: defensive detailing and prioritizing alternative membership categories. Thus, this analysis tracks the emergence of cultural and moral knowledge about social life as it takes place in primary care medical encounters.

Author Biography

Patrick J. Dillon, University of South Florida

Patrick J. Dillon (M.A., Central Michigan University, 2009) is a doctoral student in the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida. His research interests include patient-provider interaction, health disparities, and research methodology.



How to Cite

Dillon, P. J. (2012). Moral accounts and membership categorization in primary care medical interviews. Communication and Medicine, 8(3), 211–222.