What Do Italians Think About Coronavirus? An Exploratory Study on Social Representations
This research aims to analyze the structure and content of the social representation of the novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, paying particular attention to socially constructed meanings, in order to understand in what way the Covid-19 pandemic is going to take form in the collective consciousness. The study involved 484 Italian citizens, recruited through snowball sampling. Data were collected using the free association technique and the inductive term “Coronavirus”, by an online questionnaire administered between April 17 and April 26, 2020. Participants were also asked to clarify the meaning of each of the three words elicited. The corpus of words was analyzed by using EVOC 2005 software, adopting a structural approach and following the prototypical method. The corpus of sentences related to the meanings of the words has been analyzed through an inductive content analysis supported by Nvivo10 software. The social representation of Covid-19 is structured around fear, which represents the shared emotion that revolves around the risk of contagion and the current pandemic state. Alongside these elements that constitute the central system, the representation is enriched with further terms located in the near peripheries, probably shared by certain subgroups and related to physical consequences, to the daily situation of quarantine, and knowledge about the virus. The other elements related for example to specific feelings, to the perception of danger, or the protection are probably anchored to subjective experiences. Some relevant aspects, such as parallelism with other representations, the role of the media, and emotions, have been identified and discussed.