This paper attempts to forge links between two recent approaches in social cognition research: Moscovici's theory of social representations and social schema theory. These two theories or concepts converge in that both schemata and representations are conceptualized as existing knowledge structures which guide and facilitate the processing of social information by the use of cognitive short‐cuts or heuristics. Furthermore, both schemata and representations are viewed as memory traces with an internal organizational structure, and both are viewed not only as cognitive structures but also as evaluative and affective structures. However, the two theories diverge importantly on the social dimension. Social representations theory views these structures as being collectively shared, as originating and developing via social interaction and communication, and as being autonomous entities with an independent life force once created. In Doise's terms, social representations theory attempts to understand individual social psychological functioning by making links with societal and collective processes. By contrast, social schema theory is essentially an information‐processing model studied predominantly within an individualistic framework. The two theories, therefore, are articulated at different levels of explanation. Whilst it may not be possible to integrate fully the two theories, it is at least desirable for an articulation between these two levels of explanation for what are, essentially, similar social cognitive phenomena.
British Journal of Social Psychology – Wiley
Published: Sep 1, 1990
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