What are the "elements" of a representation?

  • Saadi Lahlou London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Jean-Claude Abric Université Aix-Marseille


A representation is usually described as an organized set of cognitive elements. But what are these elements? We discuss here the nature the “elements” of representations, starting from a seminal paper by Codol. Section 1 summarizes Codol’s formalism to describe the content and structure of representations: representations are made of “cognemes”. Section 2 demonstrates that cognemes, although necessary for description, cannot be considered final constituents of representations. Section 3 proposes rules of good practice to describe social representations.

Author Biographies

Saadi Lahlou, London School of Economics and Political Science

SAADI LAHLOU (Pr. Dr. Ing. Habil., CPsychol.) is director of the Institute of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He was initially trained as a Statistician and Economist before he did his PhD with Moscovici. Lahlou introduced lexical analysis (Alceste, etc.) in the field of Social Representations and he is especially interested in their functional aspects in relation with action. In his habilitation thesis directed by Abric, Lahlou introduced Installation Theory, where the role of representations in the determination of activity is situated in a larger framework including physical affordances of the build environment and institutional control. Lahlou’s current work explores the use of first person perspective video analysis to understand the detailed mechanisms of thought and action and support the design of societal change.

Jean-Claude Abric, Université Aix-Marseille

JEAN-CLAUDE ABRIC (Pr. Dr.), now professor emeritus at Aix-Marseille Université, directed the Laboratory of Social Psychology in this university from 1982 to 2001. He is the author of the “central core” theory (1976) and developed the theoretical and methodological aspects of the structural approach of social representations (SR). His works show how SR play a vital role in social practices in many domains (management, road safety, inter-city travel, etc.) Abric is also a consultant to many state departments and public and private organizations.