London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Social representations of risk and economics among young European citizens: a cross-cultural study

Author(s) Kmiec, R. & Roland-Lévy, C.  
Publisher London: CiCe  
Year 2013  
Editor P. Cunningham (ed.) Identities and Citizenship Education: Controversy, crisis and challenges  
Age group -  
In this paper, we are looking at the social representation (SR) of risk and economics across two European countries: France and Romania. Participants are similar because they are European citizenship, enrolled in university programs; nevertheless they are different on the cultural value of individualism, and also because of their historical background. The purpose of our study is to respond to two questions: Have the new aspects of life and economic contexts (e.g. economic crisis and its consequences: national debt, unemployment etc.) an effect on the lay perception of the economic world? Can the fact of being a European citizenship contribute, regardless of ones national and cultural specificities to sharing common discourse? Social representation is used to compare beliefs about relevant social objects in different national contexts (Human Rights, war and peace, crisis…). The content of the SR of risk, crisis and savings was identified thanks to a free association task with three target terms: ‘risk, ‘crisis’, ‘saving’. Participants were French and Romanian students. To analyse the spontaneous discourse provided, several methods and techniques were employed, including lexical and structural analysis (the identification of central core and peripheral zone). Associated feelings (positive, negative or neutral) were also examined for each element of the SR. Results confirm the existence of a SR of risk, crisis and savings among the students from the two countries. The SR of risk varies with the cultural context (an economic SR organized around ‘gains’ and ‘losses’ for the Romanian students, and a subjective SR organized around ‘danger’ for the French ones). The SR of crisis seems to be the same at the central core level (‘economic’, ‘money’); the central core of the SR of savings contains two elements: while the first one is common for French and Romanian students (‘money’), the second one is different (‘future’ for French students and ‘save’ for Romanian students). Future research should study the links between SR and behaviours, i.e. risk seeking or risk aversion. It would also be interesting to identify the weight of national versus European values on the lay perception of the economic world. Moreover, the results obtained with the risk analysis have to be put in perspective with the theories of decision-making analysis in the context of uncertainty. Thanks to common knowledge, citizens could be given with some elements to construct heuristics of judgment in their analysis of the economic world. Keywords: social representation, risk, crisis, cross-cultural comparisons

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