Moscovici, S. The phenomenon of social representations. In R. M. Farr
& S. Moscovici (eds.) Social Representations, 1984.
Social psychology postulates that:
1. normal individuals react to phenomenon like scientists do
2. understanding consists in information processing
Yet we are often unaware of things before our eyes. Some of our peceptions
are illusions. We also make similar conclusions of reality based on our
social information. Our reality is based on social representations. Perceiving
representations is as important as perceiving objects. All objects have
included a social representation.
The last thing viewed is only part of chain of perceptions, opinions, and
Social representations conventionalize objects, persons, and events we encounter.
Even new things are categorized into some represenation. Each experience
is added to a reality predetermined by conventions. Lewin stated that "Reality
for the individual is , to a high degree, determined by what is socially
accepted as reality".
Representations are also prescriptive based on the collectivity of past
social conventions. Changing the definition of words can change our collective
thoughts. Asch said that social interactions are happenings... psycholically
represented in each of the participants". Individuals and groups create
representations in the course of communication and co-operation. Representations
are born, change, and change other representations.
The task of social psychology is to study these representations.
What is a thinking society? The origins and development of social thought
depend on social intercourse. Groups and individuals are always under the
sway of a dominant ideology imposed by their social class. Individuals
and groups "think for themselves", creating spontaneous ideologys
with each new stimuli.
Social representations should be seen as a specific way of understanding
and communicating what we know already. They are connectors between image
and meaning. In society there is a continual need to reconstitute "common
sense" that makes sense of images and meaning.
Before reality was two parts -- sacred and profane. Now it is consensual
and reified. A consensual society is seen as a free group of individuals
who put forth opinions and shape society. In a refied universe society
is a system of different roles and classes with unequal members separated
by competence. In the sciences we understand the reified, and social representations
"The use of a language of images and of words that have become common
property through the diffusion of reported ideas enlivens and fertilizes
those aspects of society and nature with which we are here concerned".
Social representations are the "environment" in relation to the
individual or group, and are specific to our society.
The actuality of something absent, the "not quite rightness" of
an object, are what characterize unfamiliarity. Representations help make
the unfamiliar familiar. Social thinking owes more to convention and memory
than to reason. Our tendency is to confirm what is familiar. One anchors
the unfamiliar in the current conventions of reality. Objects are threatening
"To categorize someone or something amounts to chooseing a paradigm
form those stored in our memory and establishing a positive or negative
relation with it".
Anchoring is taking something foreign and compares it to a pradigm that
might be suitable. The ideas, images and language seem to dicate the initial
direction of understanding of the unfamiliar.
When we compare unfamiliar things to a prototype, we notice those things
most representative of the prototype. Naming something locates the object
in an identity matrix. Naming something give it certain characteristics
and tendencies. Classifying and naming anchor representations.
The main object of representations is to help interpretation, understanding,
and opinion formation.
Representations also give a sense of reality to images. We objectify everything.