Social representations and Irish neutrality: The role of values in anchoring

O'Dwyer, Emma, Lyons, Evanthia and Cohrs, J. Christopher (2011) Social representations and Irish neutrality: The role of values in anchoring. In: 34th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology; 9-12 July 2011, Istanbul, Turkey. (Unpublished)


Irish neutrality was investigated using the theoretical lens of social representations theory (Moscovici, 1961/76). Analyses were based on data collected for the Irish Social and Political Attitudes (2001/02). The content of the representations of Irish neutrality was first investigated, that is how individuals defined the concept. This resulted in the formualtion and description of four definitions of neutrality – independence, non-aggression, impartiality and peace-keeping. Regression analyses showed that sociodemographic characteristics, most significantly age, predicted how individuals defined neutrality. Secondly, we addressed the process of anchoring, which allows for individual positions towards a social representations which differ systematically, for example in terms of differential value priorities (Doise, Spini, & Clemence, 1999). Much discourse around Irish neutrality and its persistence has focused on its relationship with values. A correlational study investigated whether the relationship between Schwartz’s basic human values (1992) and support for neutrality was moderated by definition of neutrality held (of the four categories developed from the first analysis). Results confirmed the moderating effect of definition. Depending on definition held, the correlation between values and support for neutrality was differentially related to the dimensions of self-transcendence/self-preservation and conservation/openness to change. Possible explanations for the results will be suggested. Implications for research on foreign policy orientations as well as the benefits of using a social representations approach will be advanced.

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