Social relations and the devolution of social representations
Psychological life is subject to the influence of a constructed and potentially reconstituted past, as well as to future anticipated outcomes and expectations. Human behaviour occurs along a temporal trajectory that marks the projects individuals adopt in their quests of human action. Explanations of social behaviour are limited insofar as they exclude a historical concern with human purpose. In this paper, we draw on Bartlett’s notion of collective remembering to argue that manifest social relations are rooted in past events that give present behaviours meaning and justification. We further propose an epidemiological time-series framework for social representations, that are conceptualised as evolving over time and that are subject to a ‘ratchet effect’ that perpetuates meaning in a collective. We argue that understanding forms of social behaviour that draw on lay explanations of social relations requires a deconstructive effort that maps the evolutionary trajectory of a representational project in terms of its adaptation over time. We go on to illustrate our proposal visiting data that emerged in an inquiry investigating Maltese immigrants’ perspectives towards their countries of settlement and origin. This data reveals an assimilationist acculturation preference amongst the Maltese in Britain that seems incongruous with the current climate of European integration and Maltese communities in other countries around the world. We demonstrate that a historical concern with regard to this apparent behaviour helps explain how Maltese immigrants to Britain opt for certain forms of intercultural relations than others that are normally Integr preferable. We demonstrate that these preferences rely on an evolved justification of the Maltese getting by with foreign rulers that other scholars have traced back to the medieval practice of chivalry.
Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 2012, Vol 46, Issue 4, p. 493-511