Conversation analytic research on “preference organization” investigates recorded episodes of naturally occurring social interaction to elucidate how people systematically design their actions to either support or undermine social solidarity. This line of work examines public forms of conduct that are highly generalized and institutionalized, not the private desires, subjective feelings or psychological preferences of individuals. This article provides a detailed and accessible overview of classic and contemporary conversation analytic findings about preference, which collectively demonstrate that human interaction is organized to favor actions that promote social affiliation (through face-preservation) at the expense of conflict (resulting from face-threat). While other overviews on this topic exist, the present article is the first to synthesize findings about the preference organization of responding and initiating actions, elucidating key preference principles distilled from over 45 years of conversation analytic work, including the preferences for: (i) recipient design, (ii) contiguity and agreement, (iii) progressivity, (iv) offers over requests, (v) recognition over self-identification, (vi) self-correction over other-correction, (vii) self-criticism over other-criticism (avoiding other-criticism), and (viii) other-praise over self-praise (avoiding self-praise).


Communication, Education, Family Studies, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Psychology, Sociology

Publication Date


Journal Title

The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication


Oxford University Press

Document Type



This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication following peer review. The version of record:

Pillet-Shore, Danielle. (2017). Preference organization. In Jon Nussbaum (Editor), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. New York: Oxford University Press, (published online March 31).

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