John Heritage

Distinguished Professor of Sociology

University of California, Los Angeles


Research Interests

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) epistemic authority in interaction, and the identities that are invoked and validated in this way.

I also do research on interaction in political arenas (most of it in collaboration with my UCLA colleague Steven Clayman): 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 general topics on social interaction in 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. Current work includes the study of a clinic intervening to alleviate chronic pediatric pain, genetic counseling, and multiple drug prescribing.