An examination of the discursive devices employed in fact construction: A discourse analysis of ghost stories
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The current study examines the discursive strategies that are used when people attempt to establish an account as factual. This is examined with particular reference to accounts that orientate around paranormal phenomena, and builds on previous research in this area (Wooffitt, 1992: Wooffitt & Allistone, 2005: Lamont, 2007) by examining accounts of ostensible ghost encounters. A discursive strategy of ‘disaffirming the stereotype’ is identified, whereby writers tend to emphasise either aspects of the surroundings, the ghost, or their emotional state, during their account, which are at odds with what can be thought of as a stereotypical ghost story. A stereotypical ghost story can be considered one whereby events occur during the night, where an anxious individual, primed by eerie surroundings, believes they have seen or heard a ghost, and subsequently becomes frightened. It is argued that disaffirming the stereotypical ghost story is designed to serve two functions; firstly it is designed to disassociate the writer’s account from the easily debunked stereotype, and secondly it is designed to create a sense of saliency, which makes the account more memorable via the Von Restorff effect. In addition methodological issues concerning discourse analysis and parapsychology are discussed.