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February 19, 1982

Symptoms and Illness: The Cognitive Organization of Disorder

JAMA. 1982;247(7):1057-1058. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320320077048

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Only a small proportion of the "problematic experiences," or "disorders," experienced by people in Western societies eventuate in visits to medical practitioners, despite the ongoing search for cues of disorder, interpretation of the meanings of disorder, and creation of strategies for coping with disorder. In Symptoms and Illness, Locker studies, within a carefully spelled-out symbolic interactionist and phenomenological framework, the everyday worlds of lay persons to discover how health and illness are constructed and managed. That is, his purpose is to discover how perceptions of events and states are woven together with elements from the culture's common stock of knowledge to produce reasonable definitions and to formulate appropriate lines of action.

Locker's analysis is based on intensive interviews with six British women regarding their own and their family's health problems. Most of the respondents had not had extraordinary experiences with illness; rather, they were ordinary women with ordinary families. Deftly