Vol 18, No 2 (2021): Theory of Social Representations around the World


Introduction: The Heuristic Value of Social Representations Theory

Moliner P., Bovina I.B.



RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics. 2021;18(2):291-298
pages 291-298 views


The Notion of Common and Social Representations

Jodelet D.


The recent emergence of social and political movements calling for “common sense” and the use of the notion of “common” in philosophy and social sciences has led to the opening of a reflection on the social and scientific representations concerning them. After having mentioned some political uses of the notions of “common sense” and “common”, we examine a notion that is closely associated with them: that of “community” on which S. Moscovici expresses a reserved position but introduces a new perspective on cybercommunities and the importance attached to affectivity in community groups. The ways of dealing with “common sense”, identified over time, from antiquity to the present day, highlight certain recurrences from a double perspective. From a typological point of view, several characterizations are distinguished: through simple sharing, through the sameness of moral values and emotional dimensions, through rooting in daily experience, through its devaluation as a form of knowledge in relation to science, through rationality, through its potential for revolt or on the contrary through conformity. From a conceptual point of view, common sense is analyzed as an epistemic characteristic of a group, in its content, formation, transmission, and role in social cohesion. The latest developments in the reflection highlight its link with democracy and populism. The term “common” of recent appearance is situated opposite the notion of common goods which, after having focused on material realities, now integrates the facts and practices of knowledge, being the subject of a specific domain: the commons of knowledge. The common appears as a new way of approaching social relationships and responds to the desire to introduce a relational, ethical and political dimension into the analysis of social and change processes. In this respect, the call to the common presents affinities with the approach of social representations. The examination of the different scientific and secular representations regarding the notions of community, common sense and common makes it possible to establish connections with the perspective of the study of social representations and to open the way for new investigations.

RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics. 2021;18(2):299-314
pages 299-314 views

Social Representations and Individual Representations: What is the Difference? And Why are Individual Representations Similar?

Lahlou S.


This paper clarifies a long-standing ambiguity in the notion of social representations; it provides a clear operational definition of the relation between social representation and individual representation. This definition, grounded in the theory of sets, supports most current empirical investigation methods of social representations. In short, a social representation of an object in a population is the mathematical set of individual representations the individuals of that population have for this object. The components of the representation are the components used to describe this set, in intension in the mathematical sense of the term (in contrast with a definition in extension). Statistical techniques, as well as content analysis techniques, can construct such components by comparison of individual representations to extract commonalities, and that is what classic investigations on social representations indeed do. We then answer the question: how come that, in a given culture, individuals hold individual representations that are so similar to one another?

RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics. 2021;18(2):315-331
pages 315-331 views

Representations in Intergroup Relations: Reflexivity, Meta-Representations, and Interobjectivity

Wagner W., Raudsepp M.


Social and cultural groups are characterised by shared systems of social objects and issues that constitute their objective reality and their members' identity. It is argued that interpersonal interactions within such groups require a system of comprehensive representations to enable concerted interaction between individuals. Comprehensive representations include bits and pieces of the interactant's representational constitution and potential values and behaviours to reduce possible friction in interactions. On a larger scale, the same is true in encounters, communication, and interaction between members of different cultural groups where interactants need to dispose of a rough knowledge of the other culture's relevant characteristics. This mutual knowledge is called meta-representations that complement the actors' own values and ways of thinking. This concept complements Social Representation Theory when applied to cross-cultural and inter-ethnic interactions.

RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics. 2021;18(2):332-345
pages 332-345 views


The Phenomenon of Cognitive Polyphasia in Social Representations on the Mentally

Emelyanova T.P., Israelyan T.V.


The present study is focused on the phenomenon of cognitive polyphasia in the context of representations of mentally ill people by different groups of society. The authors put at the forefront the problem of finding the conditions for the actualization of cognitive polyphasia. The study was aimed at identifying manifestations of cognitive polyphasia in the structure of social representations (SRs) of the mentally ill in the groups of Orthodox respondents and non-believers. The sample consisted of Orthodox Christians: N = 114 (49 males and 65 females) and non-believers: N = 113 (76 males and 37 females) in the age ranges 18-23, 40-45 and 60-65 years, permanently residing in Moscow. The survey of the respondents at the main stage of the research was carried out using: (1) the authors’ questionnaire developed on the basis of the results of the search stage and including 29 statements; (2) a scale of self-assessed degree of religiosity; (3) a modified D. Feldes’ Psychological Distance Scale; (4) a modified sentence completion method; (5) the Bubbles technique and (6) a question pool for obtaining socio-demographic information. The results showed that the emotional component of SRs of the mentally ill changed their modality depending on the survey methods used. When the respondents evaluated the statements of the questionnaire, the core of SRs in both groups contained elements that were extremely sympathetic towards the mentally ill, and the statements revealing negative emotions (the possibility of contracting a mental illness or the need to isolate these people from society) were on the periphery of their representations. At the same time, the data of the projective methods showed that the negative representation background (as compared to the positive one) in relation to mentally ill people significantly predominated among both believers and non-believers. The negative representation of the mentally ill is most pronounced in the group of non-believers and reaches the highest rates in the group of 60-65-year-old respondents. We regard such ambivalence as a manifestation of cognitive polyphasia and, in particular, its variety, i.e., selective prevalence.

RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics. 2021;18(2):346-362
pages 346-362 views

The Jihadi Current and the Lay Thinking: A “Re-Anchorage” Process Hypothesis

Ben Alaya D.


The Jihadi-salafist doctrine which is at the Islamist terrorism origin that affects several countries since the emergence of Al Qaeda in the late 80's, gave birth to the “Islamic State of Iraq and Sham/Levant” (ISIS/ISIL) established as a “Caliphate” in 2014. Despite the ISIS official military defeat in 2019, the Jihadi-Salafist current - whose history goes back a long way, is currently behind a number of attacks whether collective or individual, claimed by known organizations or committed in isolation. In our perspective, we try to apprehend the attraction power of the Jihadi narrative issue taking the Theory of Social Representations as a paradigmatic framework. This implies that we don’t consider the Jihadi current membership as the manifestation of a deviation from normality or optimal rationality, but as the expression of a certain common sense “resonance”. More precisely, and taking the case of the Tunisian context, the success of the Jihadi narrative is explained by its effectiveness as an interpretive grid and as a guide for action, making it possible to “re-anchor” a reality lacking in meaning. This hypothesis of a “re-anchoring” implies that anchoring as described by Moscovici as one of the two processes at the origin of the social representations formation (with the objectification process), could be not only as a familiarization of the strange by inserting it in an already known pre-existing frame, but by substituting to the frame itself, a new one, in order to be able to insert familiar objects which would have lost their sense precisely because of the old frame itself. This hypothesis could offer a theoretical and heuristic perspective allowing the anchoring process to be conceived as a circular and non-definitive process.

RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics. 2021;18(2):363-374
pages 363-374 views

The Mute Zone of Social Representations and the Effects of (Un)Masking: Review and Prospects

Rateau P., Lo Monaco G.


Twenty years ago, Guimelli and Deschamps (2000) hypothesised the existence of the mute zone of social representations. According to the authors, certain parts of the social representations of objects, described as “sensitive”, were not expressed under normal survey conditions. This fundamental question was curiously addressed very late in literature on social representations, but has been having significant success within the community of researchers working in this field since then. This seminal work, which offered a methodological perspective capable of highlighting such unspoken facts, paved the way for studies that proposed several theoretical interpretations and new techniques for exploring this ‘mute zone’. The challenge was twofold: to identify the processes involved and to invent the appropriate tools to express the counter-normative contents potentially attached to certain objects of representation. This article proposes to take stock of these 20 years of research and to anticipate new avenues oriented on the one hand on the study of the socio-cognitive processes involved in the mute zone phenomenon, and on the other hand on the proposal of new theoretical and methodological articulations with other concepts dealing with similar issues.

RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics. 2021;18(2):375-390
pages 375-390 views


From Prototypical Stimuli to Iconographic Stimuli: The Power of Images in the Study of Social Representations

Galli I., Fasanelli R.


When we are interested in the image of a social object, we are interested in what individuals have perceived about that object, the ways in which they have interpreted those perceptions, and what they think about that object. Fully agreeing with the idea that the use of iconographic stimuli can enhance the traditional methods and techniques that are used to study any social representation, in this article, two techniques will be presented. The first, the prototypical stimuli technique, was proposed in the second half of the 1980s by Galli and Nigro. The second technique, iconographic stimuli, creatively integrate images and words in a single tool, was designed more recently to study the social representation of culture by Galli, Fasanelli, and Schember. Researches here reviewed clearly shows that the image has the great power to attract to itself the very objects depicted, a power that the word often does not possess. It is images that make people reflect, help them to think about issues concerning the fundamental aspects of everyday life. The work here presented, carried out in first person by the writer, as well as by all the other authors who are concentrating their efforts in this direction, only represents a starting point of reflection. New and more articulated studies will be able to support with heuristic evidence what so far seems to be configured as a suggestive hypothesis, which in any case will require a wider and shared interdisciplinary effort.

RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics. 2021;18(2):391-401
pages 391-401 views

A Study of the Scientist’s Image in the Context of S. Moscovici’s Theory of Social Representations

Volodarskaya E.A.


The article describes the scientific and social aspects of the functioning of the scientific school created by S. Mosсoviсi, revealing various forms of this association: a research team, a scientific direction, an ‘invisible’ college. The authors focus on the possibility of studying social representations through the inclusion of new analytical methods in the diagnostic toolkit, in particular, iconographic documents and images of a social object, which indicates the current stage of the functioning of S. Mosсoviсi’s scientific school. The formation of social representations not only through verbal associations but also through drawings is explored by the authors through the example of how adolescents develop their social representations of a scientist. The purpose of this study is to highlight the categorical features of the image of a scientist in modern Russian adolescents, identified using the DAST drawing technique. The hypothesis of the research is the assumption that the system of social representations of a scientist among Russian adolescents contains both stable indicators of a person’s belonging to the professional scientific community and variable contextual elements of the scientist’s image, whereas the degree of expression and the ratio of stable and contextual elements reflect the characteristics of the scientist’s image in domestic respondents. The Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST) technique was used as the main diagnostic tool aimed at identifying adolescent representations of a scientist based on iconographic associations.The obtained drawings were analyzed by the expert evaluation method, involving the procedures of correlation and factor analysis. The results of the study show that Russian adolescents generally have a stereotypical representation of a scientist associated with the use of general indicators of external appearance, which determine the professional affiliation of the character depicted. Differences were found in the frequency of using stable and contextual iconographic elements of drawings. It has been shown that it is possible to use the drawing technique as a diagnostic tool for identifying social representations of a scientist based on an analysis of the meaning of an object through its iconographic fixation.

RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics. 2021;18(2):402-421
pages 402-421 views

Social Representations of the Coronavirus at the Beginning of the Pandemic in Russia

Dontsov A.I., Zotova O.Y., Tarasova L.V.


The coronavirus outbreak is a global event that has bypassed national borders and affected the entire world. Therefore, examining social representations of can reveal the problems that structure people’s experiences in a particular social context. To identify social representations of the coronavirus, the authors conducted a survey within the territory of the Sverdlovsk region. The survey covered the period from March 11 to May 11, 2020. The data were collected in two stages: at the first stage, there were 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in Russia, but no cases had yet been recorded in the Sverdlovsk region; at the second stage, the number of cases reached 1952 in the Sverdlovsk region and 221 344 throughout the country. The study used the word association tests, The Semantic Differential Scale (V.F. Petrenko), The Psychic Activation Assessment Methodology (L.A. Kurgan and T.A. Nemchin) and the questionnaire survey techniques. The findings showed that the significance of the coronavirus problem for the respondents varied in different periods of the pandemic. The core of the social representation is sustainable and coherent. It reflects the results of the media impact: death, panic. It also remains stable regardless of the time and involvement of the respondents in the pandemic. The potential alteration zone serves as a kind of ‘taming’ of knowledge about the coronavirus, the operationalization of the coronavirus perception content into the language of changes in a person’s everyday life - the coronavirus pandemic is understood as a ‘flu epidemic’ and the need for self-isolation is a ‘vacation’, an opportunity ‘to stay at home’. Observation of the immediate affective reaction of the respondents to the trigger ‘coronavirus’ uncovered the presence of emotional tension and the prevalence of negative experiences in them. The survey also showed that in the pandemic, being the main source of information and a means of communication, the media set trends for developing perceptions.

RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics. 2021;18(2):422-444
pages 422-444 views


United Nations Psychology Day 2021 Focused on Post-Pandemic Rebuilding

Sandanapitchai P., Takooshian H.


In the wake of the unprecedented global COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, the Psychology Coalition at the United Nations (PCUN) managed to continue to pursue its mission, to apply psychological science to global issues at the UN. This two-part report offers a concise overview of (a) recent PCUN activities in 2020-2021, and (b) the PCUN’s 14th annual Psychology Day at the UN on April 15, 2021, which focused on “Psychological Contributions to Building Back Better in a Post-Pandemic World.”

RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics. 2021;18(2):445-452
pages 445-452 views

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