Previous research suggests that there is a potential influence of violent media on youth violence. According to Levermore & Salisbury, (2009) their recent study found that there was a relationship between virtual aggression and actual aggression in youth exposed to various forms of violent media. There are a variety of ways to analyse texts or documents, from grounded theory to discourse analysis. Wilkinson (2008) suggests that content analysis is a commonly used approach to analysing qualitative data. Content analysis involves physically organising and subdividing the data into categories, whilst the interpretive component involves determining what categories are meaningful in terms of the questions being asked (Breakwell et al., 2006). The theory of social representations offers a model of social knowledge, its social construction, transformation and distribution, and describes the function of experience and knowledge in social practises (Flick, 1995) and was introduced by Moscovici (1976). Social representations refer to shared beliefs and understandings between broad groups of people (Crisp & Turner 2010). The theory of social representations was adopted from Durkheim (1951), as he was the first to focus on the importance of collective representations embedded in our language, institutions and our customs (Flick, 1995). Moscovici (1973) has defined social representations as:
a system of values, ideas and practises with a twofold function: first to establish an order which will enable individuals to orientate themselves in their material and social world and to master it; and secondly to enable communication to take place among the members of a community by providing them with a code for social exchange and a code for naming and classifying unambiguously the various aspects of their world and their individual and group history (1973; xvii in Flick, 1995)
Two concepts are seen as central in the process of social representation; anchoring and objectification. According to Flick (1995) anchoring is to integrate new phenomena – objects, experiences – into existing worldviews and categories. Moscovici (1984, in Flick, 1995) described objectification as an imprecise idea or object being discovered, a concept converted into an image, which then becomes integrated within a pattern of figurative nucleus – a complex of images symbolizing a complex of ideas. Research of social representations has not only been about social knowledge but also, cultural objects like health and illness (Herzlich, 1973 in Flick, 1995) and politics. These issues are usually formed from theories and then transformed into popular everyday knowledge, as Crisp & Turner (2010) suggests, through discussions between individuals, or the news, media or literature. According to Flick (1995) social representations are generated, changed and exchanged, and spread through social groups.
Social influence should also be considered within the social representation theory, as people may alter their beliefs or attitudes about certain issues, because of the effect another individual or group has on these beliefs. According to Crisp & Turner (2010) social influence is all about how our thoughts, feelings and behaviours change when in the presence of others. A classic example is from Asch (1951) where participants were asked which comparison line matched the original standard line, however when majority of people gave the incorrect answer, others would still say the same answer if even they thought it was the wrong answer and so they would conform to the majority’s viewpoint.
Social representations are often used by the media to persuade, encourage and evoke certain beliefs within a group, community and society, and influence everyday practises (Jodelet, 1991, in Flick, 1995). Social...