Preventing Distractibility in Oral History Interview

Hamid Ghazvini
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


One problem that oral history researchers face is distractibility and not enough fixation by the interviewee. This situation that is sometimes accompanied with not-related issues not only undermine the narrative but also damage the narrator’s status for the interviewer and those who use the interview. Which measures should be on the agenda to resolve the problem or lessen its harms?

To achieve this one should have a clear image of causes of distractibility.

In addition to physical failures, distractibility or what is called not enough attention may be result of numerous and various activities of the narrator and his/her extensive preoccupations, lack of enough sleeping and being bored, stress, depression, feeling of defeat, worried about consequences of the interview, mental stimuli in the interview environment, and incorrect behavior of the interviewer.


Resolutions for Increasing Fixation and Preventing Distractibility during Oral History Interview

  1. Before starting the interview, the narrator should be ensured his/her memories cause no problem for anyone and it would not be published without his permission.
  2. From the first interviews and during the interview, the interviewer should behave in a way not sensitize the narrator and make him/her worried.
  3. Before starting the interview, we should be sure about physical preparation of the narrator for the interview and that he/she is not tired.
  4. Environmental factors that decrease the narrator fixation should be removed as soon as possible from the interview place or make them inaccessible such as mobile phone, TV, Clock Tick Tock, ambient noise, people who commute, etc.
  5. The narrator should be reminded of that his/her more fixation contributes to generate a socially worthwhile work and promoting it.
  6. If the distractibility is intense, the interviewee, consulted by the expert, could be represented by experiences related with enhancing fixation.
  7. We should ask the interviewee that think of two or three chief tasks which one of them is the very interview.
  8. The narrator should be asked to do the most preferred tasks before the interview so that he/she would be more relaxed during the interview.
  9. Sometimes people mistake distractibility for Alzheimer and place themselves in an improper situation; such people should be reminded of that distractibility is a temporary disorder and may be caused by internal and external factors and stimuli, but Alzheimer is result of disease of the reason deterioration and not emerge in all the people.
  10. The narrator should be asked to write in advance the titles related to his/her memories and brought them with him/herself.
  11. To avoid ask several questions simultaneously so that the narrator to answer the questions with more fixation.
  12. To avoid starting the interview with difficult and sensitizing questions that decrease the narrator’s fixation.
  13. Questions should be as soon as possible the simple ad not complicated ones.
  14. Some medicines may lessen fixation due to some side effects; so, we should notice not to held the interview after taking such medicines.

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