London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Developing identities via different social representations: teenagers, unemployment and ideology

Author(s) Christine Roland-Levy  
Publisher CiCe Publications  
Year 2000  
Editor Alistair Ross, Curricula for Citizenship in Europe  
Language English  
Age group -  
Based on the assumption that identity is related to social representations, we want to establish that the social environment affects the building of social representations, and therefore of identities. It was decided to analyse the identities in a rapidly changing sample and to focus on the changes of the representations. The aim was to analyse the possible modifications of social representations, and also to study how they can be manipulated in a population still in the making. Various experimental tasks were created for a sample of 36 teenagers, aged 15 to 17; they were tested in an experiment composed of three phases. (1) All subjects were submitted to the same first task in which both social representations of unemployment and the ideologies were studied. (2) The subjects were then randomly distributed into three groups. In the first experimental group the subjects were given a document created for the occasion, presented as a page from a newspaper with obvious leftist political comments on unemployment. In the second group the conditions were identical, except that the document presented was clearly conservative. A neutral document was presented to the control group. All the subjects had to read the document given and summarise it. (3) After a short break, they were all subjected to the third phase in which they had to evaluate various items. When one compares the social representations, before and after the experimental phase it can be noted that the central nucleus has not completely changed, but on the other hand the existence of different peripheral elements was confirmed, which implies a potential radical change. When one studies the social representation of other items such as employment and politics, it is also clear that the experimental phase has an impact on the representations of the subjects.

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