Interpretative repertoire

An 'interpretative repertoire' (Jonathan Potter, cited in Grayson, 1998, p. 40) is part of the symbolic capital of members of the relevant 'interpretative community' and constitutes the textual and interpretative codes available to them (which offer them the potential to understand and sometimes also to produce texts which employ them). Morley added that any individual or group might operate different decoding strategies in relation to different topics and different contexts. A person might make 'oppositional' readings of the same material in one context and 'dominant' readings in other contexts (Morley, 1981a, p. 9; 1981b, 66-67, 1992, p. 135).   


"The interpretative repertoire is a theoretical and analytical concept used in some forms of discourse analysis. The term was developed by social psychologists, including Jonathan Potter and Margaret Wetherell, in response to the understanding among social psychologists that action results from processes operating within the heads of individuals. Such an understanding assumes
that language and people are separate entities, and that language is a neutral medium between the social actor and the world. Accounts are therefore taken as transparent representations of events or mental states. Analysis within this paradigm relates to the truth or faithfulness of an account, or uses accounts as evidence of underlying processes. This analysis tends to look for similarities
rather than variations within and across accounts, to aggregate accounts into categories such as “attitudes,” and to downplay or discount the social situatedness of action." (McKenzie, 2005, 221).






Gilbert, N. and Mulkay, M. (1984). Opening Pandora's Box: A Sociological Analysis of Scientists' Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Grayson, Kent (1998): 'The Icons of Consumer Research: Using Signs to Represent Consumers' Reality'. IN: Stern, Barbara B (Ed) (1998): Representing Consumers: Voices, Views and Visions. London: Routledge, pp. 27-43.


McKenzie, P. J. (2005). Interpretative repertoires. IN: Theories of information behavior. Ed. by Karen E. Fisher, Sanda Erdelez & Lynne E. F. McKechnie. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc. (pp. 221-224). Available at:

Morley, D. (1981a). "The Nationwide Audience: A Critical Postscript, Screen Education, 39, 3-14.

Morley, D. (1981b). Interpreting Television. In Popular Culture and Everyday Life (Block 3 of U203 Popular Culture). Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 40-68.

Morley, D. (1992): Television, Audiences and Cultural Studies. London: Routledge.

Potter, J. & Wetherell, M. (1987). Discourse and Social Psychology. London: Sage.


Wetherell, M. & Potter, J. (1988). Discourse analysis and the identification of interpretive repertoires. In C. Antaki (Ed.), Analysing everyday explanation: A casebook of methods (pp. 168-183). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.




Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 26-05-2006