[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: As a route to providing a framework for elucidating the content of public thinking concerning emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (EID), this article examines public engagement with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It explores how British lay publics represent MRSA utilising a social representations framework. For this group, MRSA is associated primarily with dirty National Health Service (NHS) hospitals that have been neglected due to management culture having superseded the matron culture that dominated the putative golden age of the NHS. Furthermore, MRSA represents a transgression of the purpose of a hospital as a clean and curative institution. While this widely shared picture is accompanied by a strong sense of general concern, the respondents associate contracting MRSA with other identities, such as hospitalised, young and old people. These associations are linked to feelings of personal invulnerability. There is also blame of foreigners--especially cleaners and nurses--for MRSA's spread. Thus, the data corroborate a key pattern of response found in relation to myriad EID--that of othering. However, the identities associated with contracting MRSA are mutable; therefore, the threat cannot be distanced unequivocally. Beyond developing an understanding of the relationship between epidemics and identities, this article proposes a fitting theory with which to explore EID-related public thinking.
Psychology & Health 02/2011; 26(6):667-83. DOI:10.1080/08870441003763238 · 1.95 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The public profile of neurodevelopmental research has expanded in recent years. This paper applies social representations theory to explore how early brain development was represented in the UK print media in the first decade of the 21st century. A thematic analysis was performed on 505 newspaper articles published between 2000 and 2010 that discussed early brain development. Media coverage centred around concern with 'protecting' the prenatal brain (identifying threats to foetal neurodevelopment), 'feeding' the infant brain (indicating the patterns of nutrition that enhance brain development) and 'loving' the young child's brain (elucidating the developmental significance of emotionally nurturing family environments). The media focused almost exclusively on the role of parental action in promoting optimal neurodevelopment, rarely acknowledging wider structural, cultural or political means of supporting child development. The significance of parental care was intensified by deterministic interpretations of critical periods, which implied that inappropriate parental input would produce profound and enduring neurobiological impairments. Neurodevelopmental research was also used to promulgate normative judgements concerning the acceptability of certain gender roles and family contexts. The paper argues that media representations of neurodevelopment stress parental responsibility for shaping a child's future while relegating the contributions of genetic or wider societal factors, and examines the consequences of these representations for society and family life.
Social Science [?] Medicine 12/2012; 97. DOI:10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.09.048 · 2.89 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The present study utilises social representations theory to explore common sense conceptualisations of global warming risk using an in-depth, qualitative methodology. Fifty-six members of a British, London-based 2008 public were initially asked to draw or write four spontaneous "first thoughts or feelings" about global warming. These were then explored via an open-ended, exploratory interview. The analysis revealed that first thoughts, either drawn or written, often mirrored the images used by the British press to depict global warming visually. Thus in terms of media framings, it was their visual rather than their textual content that was spontaneously available for their audiences. Furthermore, an in-depth exploration of interview data revealed that global warming was structured around three themata: self/other, natural/unnatural and certainty/uncertainty, reflecting the complex and often contradictory nature of common sense thinking in relation to risk issues.
Public Understanding of Science 07/2013; 22(1):16-32. DOI:10.1177/0963662512440913 · 1.87 Impact Factor
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