Intelligence and its development: Social representations and social identities

  • Isabel Miguel University of Coimbra
  • Joaquim Pires Valentim University of Coimbra
  • Felice Carugati University of Boogna


From the paradigm of social representations theory, results from an interview-based study are presented. Forty-five Portuguese participants with different educational roles were interviewed individually about their definitions of intelligence and perceived family and school contributions for its development. Content analyses of the answers led to the differentiation of distinct categories, presenting intelligence as a multi-dimensional concept and identifying which specific educational practices are perceived as enhancing its development. Subsequent correspondence analyses shed light on the relationship between the various representational components and individuals’ group membership, as defined by their educational roles. Extracted dimensions and typologies illustrate the socio-cognitive complexities of representations both by disentangling which domains build up an intelligible sense of intelligence for each group of participants and by demonstrating social representations’ function in protecting a positive self-image. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings in educational research and intervention are discussed.

Author Biographies

Isabel Miguel, University of Coimbra

ISABEL MIGUEL received her Psychology degree at the Faculty of Psychology and
Educational Sciences of University of Coimbra, Portugal, where she has proceeded her PhD studies. Currently she is a member of the Institute of Cognitive Psychology, Vocational and Social Development of University of Coimbra. As a social psychologist, she has particular research interests in social representations and social identification in everyday life, parenting and educational practices.

Joaquim Pires Valentim, University of Coimbra

JOAQUIM PIRES VALENTIM is a Professor at Faculty of Psychology and Educational
Sciences at University of Coimbra. He received his PhD in Social Psychology at the University of Coimbra and also the European PhD on Social Representations and Communication. His main research focus are on the fields of social representations, intergroup relations, cultural diversity and social justice. Among other publications, he published in 1997 the book Escola, Igualdade e Diferença [School, equality and difference].

Felice Carugati, University of Boogna

FELICE CARUGATI was graduate in Medicine and Surgery and specialist in Neurology and Psychiatry. He is Full Professor of Developmental Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology and a member of the Department of Education of the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna, where he has been dean of the Department of Education. He is a member of several international scientific societies, Chief-editor of European Journal of Psychology of Education and member of the editorial boards of several international journals of development, education
and socialisation. He is visiting professor in several European universities. His main scientific interests are: socialisation processes in institutions and the families; social and personal identity; social categorisation; social interaction and cognitive development; social representations of development, education, learning and teaching; dynamics of diffusion of scientific knowledge and common sense; social dynamics in assessment and evaluation of teaching-learning; reasoning and decision making in social interaction.

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