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The epistemological significance of the theory of social representations

Markova I (2008) The epistemological significance of the theory of social representations. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 38 (4), pp. 461-487.

The theory of social representations must be understood in terms of its proper epistemology so that it can accomplish its full potential in social sciences. This is often difficult to achieve because researchers comprehend it in terms of concepts that are part of static and individualistic Newtonian epistemology rather than in terms of dynamic and relational Einsteinian epistemology. This article considers three signposts that Moscovici identifies and analyses in the theory of relativity, namely the relation between epistemology and science, theory and method, and the argument against the explanation of effects by their causes. The following question is posed: are these signposts also characteristic of the theory of social representations? This question is examined focusing on interactional epistemology, theory and method and the diversity of natural thinking and communication. Moscovici’s Psychoanalysis shows that natural thinking appears in a plurality of modes according to the situation in which it takes place and according to social groups towards which it is directed. Natural thinking is controversial and communication centred. Different professionals, groups and lay people use different kinds of speaking and different communicative genres when they try to resolve “the same� problem. The article suggests that bringing together dialogicality, dialogical linguistics and the theory of social representations may open up new possibilities for theoretical developments in social psychology.

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Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour: Volume 38, Issue 4

Author(s)Markova, Ivana
Publication date31/12/2008
PublisherWiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
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