Can Talk Reveal Nondeclarative Culture? Deliberation Strategies in Talking About Social Controversies1

Christine Delp, Penny Edgell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scholars have long debated the kind of cultural information that can be obtained through discursive methodologies. Is it possible to discern implicit, nondeclarative cultural information about research participants from “talk” alone? Using focus group data from the Talking about Social Controversies project, we argue that it is possible to discover limited kinds of nondeclarative culture from talk in sites of situated interaction. We propose the concept of deliberation strategies to describe the different ways people align their personal declarative culture (e.g., beliefs and values) with available forms of public culture (e.g., discourses or institutionally packaged cultural forms). We argue that deliberation strategies are styles of combining personal and public culture, and that they reveal information about (1) the coherence of people's personal declarative culture, (2) people's implicit preferences for alignment between their personal beliefs and policies they would prefer to see adopted for the public at large, and (3) their preferences for coherence at the level of public culture. We show how focusing on deliberation strategies sheds light on the willingness of individuals to accept institutionally packaged “one-size-fits-all” solutions to contemporary social problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1018-1039
Number of pages22
JournalSociological Forum
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to acknowledge support from the National Science Foundation (award # SES‐1059748) and the Graduate Research Partnership Program at the University of Minnesota. This material is also based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (award # CON‐7585). Special thank you to Daniel Winchester, Jacqui Frost, and Ethan Johnson for providing helpful comments and suggestions, along with members of the Culture Club and the Proseminar in the Sociology department at the University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Sociological Forum published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Eastern Sociological Society.


  • culture and cognition
  • deliberation strategies
  • focus groups
  • personal and public culture
  • public policy
  • social controversy


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