Using Social Knowledge: A Case Study of a Diarist’s Meaning Making During World War II

  • Tania Zittoun
  • Alex Gillespie
  • Flora Cornish
  • Emma-Louise Aveling


The history of societies is marked by ruptures such as wars, pandemics, new technologies and natural disasters. In response to such ruptures, societies generate social knowledge that enables the population to master the given rupture. The concept of social representations theorizes this production of social knowledge (Moscovici 1984). Social representations make the unfamiliar or uninvited rupture, familiar. For instance, social representations enable people to interact with intangible illnesses such as AIDS (Joffe 1995), they enable people to imagine a distant or unintelligible other (Jodelet 1989), they enable people to imagine what happens in the psychoanalyst’s office (Moscovici 1973), and they provide people with concrete images to guide thought and action in regard to genetically modified foods (Wagner et al. 2002). Emerging out of “the crisis in social psychology” and the critique of the individualization of social psychology (Moscovici 1973), the theory of social representations has provided a means for theorizing collective phenomena in their own right (Farr 1998). Hence, Moscovici’s well-known statement that social representations “lead a life of their own, circulate, merge, attract and repel each other and give birth to new representations, while old ones die out” (Moscovici 1984, p. 13). In this statement, the unit of social psychological analysis is the social representation, which appears as an autonomous, almost intentional, unit. Social psychological phenomena appear, in this statement, to happen between social representations rather than between people.


Social Knowledge Social Representation Formal Communication Cultural Element Directive Reply 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tania Zittoun
    • 1
  • Alex Gillespie
    • 2
  • Flora Cornish
    • 3
  • Emma-Louise Aveling
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute Psychology and education, FLSHUniversity of NeuchâtelNeuchâtelSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK
  3. 3.Glasgow Caledonian UniversityGlasgow ScotlandUK
  4. 4.Faculty of Social and Political SciencesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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