PB432      Half Unit
Social Representations: Social Knowledge and Contemporary Issues

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Sandra Jovchelovitch


This course is available on the MSc in Behavioural Science, MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course focuses on social representation as a theory in social and cultural psychology and as phenomena in social life. It explores concepts, empirical studies and fields of application of social representations. The course aims to equip students with in-depth understanding of the production, transformation and contestation of representations in public spheres. Through an examination of concepts and key studies in the field, the course explores the dynamics of social thinking and the power of representations to construct meanings and social realities. It highlights process of communication and contestation between different knowledge systems and the dynamics of social change.

The course covers: 1) origins and theoretical roots of social representations in the field of socio-cultural psychology and situated cognition; 2) processes and functions of social representation, including dialogicality, cognitive polyphasia, relating to the unfamiliar, semantic enablers and barriers, and the future of common sense vis-a-vis systemic encroachment and artificial intelligence; and 3) ongoing research on how communities think and the transformation of common sense in contemporary societies, in areas such as self and community, cultural encounters/cultural conflict, health, professional practices, urban transformations, social exclusion (these can vary depending on the research at hand).


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

An essay plan of not more than 500 words is required.

Indicative reading

Key texts:

G Sammut, E Andreouli, G Gaskell, and J Valsiner (Eds). Resistance, stability and social change: A handbook of social representations. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

S Moscovici, Social Representations. Polity Press, 2000;

S Moscovici, Psychoanalysis: its image and its public. Polity Press, 2008.

S Jovchelovitch, Knowledge in Context: Representations, community and culture. Routledge, 2007. I Markova, Dialogicality and Social Representations. CUP, 2003.  

D Jodelet, Madness and Social Representations, Harvester/Wheatsheaf, 1991;

W Wagner and N Hayes, Everyday Discourse and Common Sense, Palgrave, 2005.

K Deaux & G Philogène, Representations of the Social: Bridging Theoretical Perspectives, Basil Blackwell, 2001.

Other texts:

R M Farr & S Moscovici (Eds), Social Representations, Cambridge University Press, 1984;

Howarth, C. "A social representation is not a quiet thing": Exploring the critical potential of social representations theory." British Journal of Social Psychology, 2006, 45: 65-86..

I Marková & S Jovchelovitch (Guest Editors) Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, Special Issue on Psychoanalysis: its Image and its Public, 38(4) 2008.

H Joffe, Risk and 'The Other'. Cambridge University Press, 1999.

U Flick, The Psychology of the Social. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

G Maloney and I Parker, Social Representations and Identity: content, process and power, Palgrave, 2007.


Coursework (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2019/20: 20

Average class size 2019/20: 11

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills