Context Effects and Inter-Representation Activation: An Experimental Study

  • João Wachelke Università Degli Studi Di Padova




The paper concerns the study of structural relations among social representations. Departing from the assumption that social representations are interconnected forming representational systems, the research aim was to verify if context salience of a cognem from one social representation is associated with a higher activation rate of a cognem from another representation within the same representational system. The rationale is inspired by Moliner’s studies about context effects, social images and representations. After conducting exploratory surveys, an experimental study was carried out with a sample of 72 Italian undergraduates who completed a questionnaire. The main manipulation consisted in emphasizing or relativizing the content of one peripheral cognem from the representation on health through a text. The basic cognitive schemes (SCB) valences of two cognems from the representation on aging, which had been identified as part of the same system, were assessed. In the emphasis condition, the descriptive valences of both cognems related to aging were higher when compared to relativization. The results provide empirical evidence of the effects of one representation over the activation of another one by means of a context effect, suggesting that research on cognem-to-cognem relations might inspire useful models on inter-representation relations.

Author Biography

João Wachelke, Università Degli Studi Di Padova

JOAO WACHELKE has concluded his Ph.D. in Social and Personality Psychology at the University of Padua, Italy. He is a research collaborator of the Social Psychology of Communication and Cognition Laboratory (LACCOS) from the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. His research focuses on basic theory and methodology of the structural approach on social knowledge, representations and social thinking. ADDRESS: Laboratório de Psicologia Social da Comunicação e Cognição, Departamento de Psicologia, Campus Universitário Trindade, 88040-900 – Florianópolis – SC – Brazil.