Structural Theory of Social Representations in Light of a Metaphor: of Clouds and Clocks

  • Dora Ben Alaya Université de Tunis El Manar
Keywords: Popper, Abric, predictability, structural approach, social representation


The concept of social representation (Moscovici, 1961) as formalized through structural

theory initiated by Abric (1976; 1987), is discussed in this paper in light of Popper’s

metaphorical description (that of clouds and clocks) of phenomena prototypes studied in

science, according to their level of regularity and predictability. We evoke Jean-Claude

Abric’s early work in the understanding of the link between social representations and

behavior and specifically about the role of situation representation in determining this

link. We also discuss different theoretical proposals from Abric’s first work, which has

mostly been untapped. These theoretical insights are presented as potential

formalizations enabling to merge social representations paradigm with the pole of

predictable systems on Popper’s metaphorical axis.

Author Biography

Dora Ben Alaya, Université de Tunis El Manar

DORRA BEN ALAYA is assistant professor (maître de conférences) in social psychology at the

Higher Institute of Human Sciences of Tunis (Tunis El-Manar University). Her research deals

with social thinking in general and social representations in particular. Her publications

regards several themes that correspond to research objects that are subject to change dynamics

in the transitional Tunisian context, such as re-appropriation of history through virtual social

networks, “good marital partner”, gender, language and their symbolic relations, and

homosexuality. She is currently interested in forms of social representations expression and

making in virtual social networks, in a “post-revolutionary” Tunisian context. Another aspect

of her field of interest is its broader fit into epistemological issues about social representation

objects as epistemic constructs.