Exploring the Social Representations of Vulnerable Populations Being Helped

  • Lisa Bignone ISCTE-IUL
  • Carla Sofia Esteves ISCTE-IUL
  • Miriam Rosa ISCTE-IUL
Keywords: social representations, intergroup helping relations, recipient's perceptions of help


Resorting to Social Representation Theory, the aim of this study was to investigate the perceptions of help recipients about Help, namely in terms of the shared representations about Helping Institutions, the self-perceptions of aid recipients and the potential Social Status Distance with regard to their helpers. Twenty-five members of vulnerable groups that benefited from help programs offered by Non-Profit Institutions/Organizations, aged between 18 and 70-years-old, responded to semi-structured interviews. Following the theoretical-methodological orientation of the structural approach of Social Representation Theory (Abric, 1984), the 800 free evocations and 149 words produced during the interviews, underwent a prototypical analysis with open-EVOC software (2000). In addition to contributing to Social Representation Theory by considering the theme of helping relations, the results of the present study showed – in contrast to the literature on orientations toward help (Nadler, 1997; 1998; 2002; 2015) – the importance, at different levels, of both autonomy and dependency orientations (and not just the latter). This study showed the importance, for the recipients of help, of being protagonists, active and autonomous in the process of improving their psychological and material situation; together with the importance of enjoying material goods, even if it means depending on an institution. Results are discussed as a potential contribution to designing help programs that might provide greater benefits and well-being to help recipients.

Author Biographies

Lisa Bignone, ISCTE-IUL

LISA BIGNONE has completed a Master in Psychology of Intercultural Relations in 2019 at ISCTE-IUL with supervision of Carla Sofia Esteves (ISCTE-IUL) and Miriam Rosa (ISCTE-IUL). Lisa is interested and dedicated to the inclusion and integration of vulnerable groups, a passion that is reflected in her work experience with migrants, refugees and vulnerable groups in general, and in research, where she prefers the area of intergroup relations, helping relations, power relations, inclusion/exclusion and integration.

Email: lisa@bignone.it

Carla Sofia Esteves, ISCTE-IUL

CARLA SOFIA DE CASTRO ESTEVES is a researcher at CIS-IUL (Center for Research and Social Intervention). She completed a PhD in social psychology in 2011 at ISCTE-IUL. Sofia has been dedicated to scientific research in the area of intergroup relations, more specifically the factors that contribute to both harmonious and conflicting intergroup relations, minorities, inclusion/exclusion, perceptions that minorities have of their intergroup situation, stereotypes, ageism from the point of view of "perpetrators" and targets – factors that contribute to the mitigation and exacerbation of ageism.

Email: csesteves@ucp.pt

Miriam Rosa, ISCTE-IUL

MIRIAM HENRIQUES ROSA is a researcher at CIS-IUL (Center for Research and Social Intervention) and guest professor at the Department of Social Psychology and Organizations of ISCTE-IUL. She completed a PhD in 2012 at ISCTE-IUL with co-supervision at the University of Kiel (Germany) with a FCT (Foundation for Science and Technology) grant. She has been a FCT post-doctoral fellow from 2013 to 2018 at CIS-IUL and Rotterdam School of Management (University of Rotterdam, Netherlands). Miriam has been dedicated to scientific research in the area of intergroup relations, focusing on relations between social groups of asymmetric status (majorities vs. minorities).

Email: miriam.rosa@iscte-iul.pt

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