What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Participation? Sense of Community and Social Representations of Participation


  • Alessia Rochira
  • Evelyn De Simone
  • Terri Mannarini
  • Sergio Salvatore


The relationship between sense of community (SOC) and citizen participation has been extensively studied in community psychology. Connecting Social Representations and SOC theory, this study explored the lay meanings of citizen participation and its association with SOC. A word association task and a measure of territorial SOC were administered to 390 participants, and data analyzed to explore the contents of the social representations of citizen participation conveyed by the interviewees and their salience. Results revealed that different levels of SOC were associated with variations in the social representation of citizen participation. Specifically, among high-SOC participants the notion of formal political participation prevailed, while among low-SOC participants a more articulated vision emerged, encompassing social and community participation, and also conventional and non conventional types of participatory behaviors.