Catellani, P. (1993).
Reference to semantic aspects of social representations in solving problems.
Papers on Social Representations, 2, p. 107-114.


The semantic component of the social representation of politics has been investigated through a series of studies employing different methods. Whereas the first studies were aimed at exploring the representation field of politics and at investigating the features of the related concept, the current ones are aimed at studying how the semantic aspects of the representation may be traced in the solution process of specific political problems.
An initial study allowed us to identify the variety of meanings that spontaneously emerge in the common discourse on politics. Extending the analysis to the organisation of such meanings in more complex structures showed that some of the shared contents of the representation, such as power, may take on different meanings according to which other contents are connected to them within the discourse.
In a following study attention shifted from the way the meanings are understood and communicated to the way in which they are ordered and organised in a concept through a process of abstraction. The central and peripheral features of "politics" intended as a conceptual category were thus identified and an influence of political participation level as well as of party preference on the perception of the concept was highlighted.
The above mentioned studies provided a description of the semantic structure of the representation. At present our interest is devoted to examine whether and how the meanings that have emerged in the representation are used in dealing with specific political problems. Such a study is carried out by asking people to propose a solution to a problem and by analysing verbalizations thus obtained in order to find out which definitions of politics (e.g. action to improve society, conflict among parties, exercise of power or search of a personal profit) are implicitly or explicitly referred to during problem solving. A quantitative analysis will show whether the frequency of the various definitions of politics and the differences among groups change when shifting from a generic discourse on politics to a specific political problem. Furthermore the relationship between the representation activated during problem solving and the solution proposed will be investigated.
Proposing and justifying a solution to a political problem may be considered as one form, and a relevant one, of political action. Our present research approach is therefore discussed making reference to the more general issue of the relationships between representation and action.