Poznyak S. I. Semantic coordinates of social interaction in the political world outlook of university students

Political world outlook as individual’s subjective reflection of politics and his or her own image therein is constructed by youth in the framework of the discourse produced by the political socialization subjects. The discourse reflects interaction of their socializing influences. Such is the proposed general approach to studying peculiarities of structuring youth political world outlook.  The theory of social capital and its psychological component “socio-political capital” defined as a set of attitudes that support and regulate interpersonal interaction is applied as the theoretical basis for the empirical research of youth’s representations of social interaction in the political world outlook structure. The psycho-semantic stage of the empirical research whose respondents represented higher education institutions of the four regions of the country resulted in identifying basic semantic coordinates of the university students’ representations of social interaction.  The identified semantic and disposition tendencies indicate that respondents’ representations are determined by the meaning of civic subjectivity, ambiguity of the semantics of civic identification and essence of  civic involvement, portrayal of narrow radius of institutional and interpersonal trust.

Key words: political world outlook, social interaction, socializing discourse, socio-psychological capital, civic subjectivity.

Theme. Social and political experience of an individual, a group, or a nation  is reflected in the individual and collective conscience in a specific way creating a unique picture of a subjective world comprising a dynamic system of interconnected images and representations of the society, politics, power structure and configuration, degrees and forms of individual’s involvement. The internally organized world of subjective reflection of the surrounding environment links the objective reality and an individual and is a condition of continuity and purposefulness of his or her social involvement. G. Duby argued that the systems of images and representations that belong to different groups and layers of the social formation can be connected in a different way but they always constitute the basis for peoples’ representations of the world, their role in it, and correspondingly determine peoples’ deeds and behavior [1].

Political world outlook is a component of the overall world outlook of an individual. It refers to the system of images and representations of authority, political system, its structure, political actors, mechanisms of political influence, ways of political decision-making, norms and rules of political interaction and political participation, and self-image in politics. Research of the political world outlook has both theoretical and applied value. The theoretical analysis of the political world outlook aims at conceptualization of the cognitive and emotional foundations of individual political participation. The empirical studies of the subjective reflection of politics make it possible to foresee political actions of citizens including those of youth [2]. According to O. Shestopal, if one wants to comprehend the secrets of authority influence on citizens’ conscience, it is more important to investigate not even the authorities as they are but the images that dominate peoples’ minds [3]. In the current social and political context of the country, such studies are of crucial importance.

  The purpose of the article is to outline the conceptual approach to investigating political world outlook as well as research of the semantic coordinates of social interaction in the structure of the political world outlook of university students; to present a model of the semantic space of students’ representations of social interaction drawn from the findings of the psychosemantic research; and to discuss the obtained results.

World outlook and political world outlook in particular is both a reflection of the general cultural and national systems of orientations as stated by E. Fromm [4], and specific (regional, ideological, social and role) configurations of representations of the world of politics. Society constructs a cultural superculture, a general national world outlook, the nucleus that reflects, according to G. Gachev, “integrity of the national life…” and includes “… nature, customs, folklore, language, poetic images …” In other words, it is a set of major national values, orientations, symbols and archetypes (cit. after [2, с. 89]). The existence of such a nucleus enables mutual understanding between different groups in the society. It provides the framework for selection and interpretation of new information.

In this context specific emphasis is given to studying the potential and peculiarities of the influence of multitype, multivector and multimeaning semantic constructs developed by the political socialization agents such as media, authorities, education, citizens associations, religious communities and young people themselves.  The verbal representation of the socializing influences is discourse, which, as stressed by I. Zhadan, not only represents images, representations and meanings of the interaction participants but also frames the reality. As a dynamic form of social practice, it constructs society, individual and identity. Within the current discourse in the process of socialization, youth constructs its own text. The main mechanisms of its construction are selection, interpretation, and conceptualization of meanings [5]. It is socializing discourse that is the object of the research aimed at studying peculiarities of the semantic space of social interaction in the structure of the political world outlook of the university students.

In order to determine basic meanings that structure social and political discourse with regards to social interaction and to develop the empirical research instruments, we focus on the theory of social capital, which is a wide spread concept in modern social sciences. It allows productive approaches to studying social interaction and its collective and individual resource [6].  We define social capital as a system of representations and dispositions that determine the space of common meanings, which support and regulate intersubjective communication, influence the choice of social interaction patterns and partners, and thus, provide for individual’s capability to interact with others. Such interpretation of the concept is based on the analysis of the works of P. Bourdieu, J. Coleman, R. Patnam and F. Fukuyama, where one can find its conceptualization basics. The definition suggested above reflects, in the first place, psychological aspect of social capital, which corresponds to the tasks of our research. In order to define the relational aspect of social interaction O. Tatarko introduces a new term “social-psychological capital” [7].

Semantic parameters of social interaction are determined following a thorough analysis of the social capital concept of J. Coleman, J. Nahapiet, S. Ghoshal [8; 9]. The parameters can be united into three groups: 1) relational (trust, reciprocity, understanding and acceptance of norms and aims of interaction, recognition of duties, partnership and responsibility); 2) cognitive (shared meanings, developed and used by individuals or groups in intergroup or intragroup interaction); 3) structural (attitudes and readiness of an individual to establish links with others in the framework of a certain social structure).

The findings of the theoretical analysis allowed identifying indicators of social capital, which were been taken into consideration in the process of developing the program of the empirical study of the semantic coordinate of social interaction representations in the political world outlook of university students.  The main indicators are representations of interpersonal trust and trust to social and political institutions, identity and identification, reciprocity of obligations and expectations, recognition of the “rules of the game”, recognition of and provision for the legitimacy of social norms and sanctions, maintenance of a network of social contacts and social support, civic interaction and responsibility (with regards to political interests, solution of community problems on any level), civic participation – formal (participation in civic, religious, trade union and other organizations) and informal (voluntary and charity activities).

The empirical research of the university student representations of social interaction was carried out in three stages. The first one dealt with the content analysis of the discourses of the political socialization subjects, the aim of which was to identify semantic components of the political discourse that provides coordinates for developing youth representations of social interaction. The aim of the second stage, whose findings will be discussed in this article, was to determine main semantic space coordinates that structure youth representations of the basic attitudes and values of social interaction. The main research method here was a psychosemantic survey. The third stage presupposed application of the projective methods for in-depth studying of the meanings that structure student representations of social interaction.

The outcomes of the content analysis of scientific and education discourses (education media and  school curricula in social sciences and humanities for students of 10-11 grades of secondary schools, program documents and reports on a number of educational projects carried out by ngos and professional associations, as well as publications in the sections “society” and “politics” of the popular Internet media) allowed determining the main themes of the political socialization subject discourse with regards to social interaction. Those themes were interpersonal and institutional trust; rules of the game, norms and sanctions; and civic involvement.   Within each of the identified themes between 10 and 12 propositions representing the main semantic vectors of the political discourse were formulated. Those propositions were later used to develop a questionnaire for the second psychosemantic stage of the research, whose piloting was described in detail in our previous articles.

482 respondents participated in the psychosemantic survey. Those were students of the higher education establishments representing different regions of the country: central region (105 respondents from Kiev and 85 students from Vinnytsia); southern region (97 Kherson student); 105 respondents from Donetsk); western region (89 students from Ivano-Frankivsk). The data obtained were processed with the help of the mathematic statistics methods.

Coordinates of the semantic space of the respondents’ representations were drawn from the outcomes of the factor analysis of the obtained data based on a six factor model. In order to identify regional culture specific features of youth representations of social interaction (if any) factor structures of student representations from all over the country and from each of the four region were constructed and analyzed.

Processing the general four region psychosemantic survey data resulted in a factor model of student social interaction representations with total dispersion of 67.1 %.

The first and the most informative factor of the model is civic participation and responsibility (18.21% total dispersion contribution). It is comprised of the following statements: we won’t be able to protect our social, economic and professional interests without civic participation (0.599); participation in the activities beneficial for the society and one’s community is a duty of every citizen (0.591); members of citizens associations are people who care about the good of the society and are prepares to sacrifice their own interests for the sake of the common good (0.560); among citizens organizations and voluntary groups there are some those objectives and interests I share (0.530);  only our citizens’ active political participation can make politicians act in the interests of all members of the society but not in their own (0,480): and some others.

The second factor is named “civic and social identification” (total dispersion contribution is 13.7 %). It is composed of such statements as “only uneducated and frightened people can show loyalty and trust to the government and its institutions” (0.594); “let well-off people do charity and voluntary things, the poor should not help anybody” (0.539); “a person identifying him- or herself with any group loses individuality and acts “like everybody else”” (0.522); “citizens can not have shared interests with the authorities” (0,488).

 The third comes the factor that contains statements dealing with the meanings of trust and reciprocity (total dispersion contribution is 9.95%): among my acquaintances there always are people who I can rely on when in need (0.561); we live in the times when no one except the family can be trusted (0.505); a person should always be on alert not to be used by other people (0.504); most of the people around me are concerned only with their own well-being  (0.493); I can not give up my own interests for the sake of others’ as I am not sure I can count on any reciprocity (0.471).

The fourth factor, attitude to norms and rules (9.08 % total dispersion contribution), is represented by the following constructs: we all contribute to corruption as we are prepared to give a bribe not to spend time and effort necessary to solve the problem in a legal way (0.595); “constant talks about the flaws of our legislation make people tolerant to breaking the law as well as to criminals (0.469); one should realize that MPs will care about our interests only when we start spending our time and means on their election (0.406).

The fifth factor, need for social security, with the total dispersion contribution of 8.19 % comprised such statements as “identification with a group, its values and ideals helps people to feel more secure” (0.517); “the majority of citizens count on government support in solving of their problems” (0.413).

The sixth and the least informative factor (7.9% total distribution contribution) represents meanings of individual freedom or freedom of choice: other people have no right to put moral pressure on a person to make him or her obey “the rules of the game” established by the society (0.619); individual freedom and a free choice of one’s own goals do not in any way contradict observation of social norms and rules (0.432); I believe that every citizen’s efforts to improve oneself are more important for strengthening the nation and the society than his or her political or civic participation (0.401).

The factor model described above proves that the student representations of social interaction are determined by the meanings of civic subjectity.  Those meanings are represented by the first two factor of the model named “civic responsibility and participation” and “civic and social identification”. The first factor has evidence that the youth realizes the importance of being actively involved into social and political processes and feel like getting involved. The structure of the second one allows determining quality features of such involvement. Most of the student who participated in the survey can not to the full extend identify themselves with the government and institutions of the state whose citizens they are.  It seems that the respondents are likely to be in the opposition to the government and are not prepared to cooperate with it. Thus, according to the single-variate data distribution, only 35% of the respondents did not agree with the statement that only uneducated and frightened people can show trust and loyalty to the government and its institutions, 33% said “yes”, and 32% could not make their choice.  However, when it comes to the desirable state of things, 69% of the respondents believe that citizens can share interests with the authorities, and only 9% think that there can not be any shared interests.

The semantics of the third factor accentuates the meanings of trust and reciprocity in the structure of the semantic space of the survey participants. Unlike the previous factor where one can find evidence of institutional trust, here the emphasis is on interpersonal trust. The results of the single-variante data distribution suggest an idea about its level. 88% of the respondents agreed that among their acquaintances there are people who they can rely on when in need, and only 2% answered “no”.   Almost half of the respondents (46%) reacted with “yes” to the statement “we live in the time when nobody except one’s family can be trusted”; 29% disagreed with this, and the rest could not make their choice.  As for the construct “people should always be on their alert not to be used by other people”, more than half of the students (58%) supported it, 17% disagreed, and every fourth one could not choose between the yes or no answer (25%). More than a third of the respondents showed positive attitude to the statement “I can not give up my own interests for the sake of others as I can not count on any reciprocity”, every fourth student (27%) answered “no”, and every third (34%) didn’t make a choice.

The findings discussed contain evidence of quite a narrow radius of trust and expected reciprocity which structure student representations about their interaction with others. For most of the respondents such radius is limited to their families and the closest environment, which is likely to be their” beloved ones”, “friends”, “God” .  “

Another prove of the conclusion about the narrow trust radius is provided by the structure of the factor which actualizes the meaning of the need for social security. Almost two thirds of the respondents (64%) stated they expect that it can be provided by the group whose values and ideals they share. As for the government, only every third student (35% of the respondents) believes that citizens can count on government’s support in solving their problems, whereas a noticeably bigger percentage  (43%) reacted to that statement negatively.  Meanings of social norms and sanctions are represented in the student representations model by the factors “attutudes to norms and values” and “individual freedom”. The semantic structure of those factors and respondents’ evaluation of the statements that comprise them allow the assumption that most of the respondents recognize the “tolerant” attitude of the society to violation of both social and legal norms.  For example, two out of three (67%) respondents agreed with the statement “we all contribute to corruption as we are prepared to give a bribe not to spend time and effort necessary to solve the problem in a legal way”, and only 15% reacted negatively. It is obvious that the students share responsibility for such state of affairs with their fellow citizens.  At the same time 75% of the respondents believe that “other people have no right to put moral pressure on a person to make him or her obey “the rules of the game” established by the society”, and only 9% disagree with that construct. The survey participants highly appreciate individual freedom and think that “individual freedom and free choice of one’s goals do not contradict to social norms and rules observation (69% of the respondents).

Conclusions. The suggested approaches to the empirical research of the semantic space of student representations of social interaction and to the interpretation of its findings are based on the basic propositions of the social capital theory and the theory of discourse, which serve here as a conceptual model for studying specific feature of structuring students political world outlook with regards to social interaction.  The semantic model of student representations of social interaction based on the outcomes of the psychosemantic analysis indicates on mythological, irrational and contradictive features, which manifest themselves in well-articulated and broad meanings of civic subjectity and participation, on one hand, and specifically narrow meanings of civic identification and social trust, on the other. The position of normative behavior and social sanctions is not well-articulated in the model semantics either. This allows an assumption that civic participation determined by the images of civic subjectity, incompetent authorities and narrow radius of trust can often be protest oriented or passive and observational, which, in its turn can hardly be viewed as a sustainable factor of consolidation and reproduction of the society.

Studying of the regional culture specific features of the student representations, interpretation of the outcomes of the next stage of the research involving projective methods of data collection as well as additional analysis of the social and political discourse will help to verify and further specify the data discussed and the generalizations and conclusion made in this article.


  1. Duby, G. (2000). Trehchastnaya model, ili Predstavlenie srednevekovogo obshchestva o samom sebe [The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined]. Мoscow: Languages of the Russian culture (rus).
  2. Samarkina, I. (2012). Politicheskaya kartina mira: opyt i problemy kontseptualizatsii [Political world outlook: experience and problems of conceptualization]. Chelovek. Obshchestvo. Upravlenie [Individual. Society. Governance], 1,

49–59 (rus).

  1. Shestopal, E. B. (2009). Obrazy rossiyskoy vlasti: ot Eltsina do Putina [Images of the Russian government: from Eltsyn to Putin]. Moscow: Russian political encyclopaedia (rus).
  2. Fromm, E. (1998). Imet ili byt [To Have or to Be]. Translated by N. Petrenko, O. Ivanchuk. Kyiv: Nika-Tsentr; Vist-S (rus).
  3. Zhadan, I. V. (2014). Osoblyvosti strukturuvannia tsinnisnoi skladovoi politychnoi kartyny svitu studentskoi molodi [Peculiarities of structuring value component of youth’s political world outlook]. Psykholohichni perspektyvy [Psychological perspectives], 24, 100–112 (ukr).
  4. Poznyak, S. I. (2012). Kontseptualni osnovy doslidzhennia sotsialnoho kapitalu yak chynnyka hromadianskoho zaluchennia [Conceptual foundations of research of social capital as s factor of civic involvement]. Problemy politychnoi psykholohii ta yii rol u stanovlenni hromadianyna Ukrainskoi derzhavy [Issues of political psychology and its role in becomingyof a citizen of the Ukrainian state], 13, 75 – 84 (ukr).
  5. Tatarko, A. N. (2013). Sotsialno-psihologicheskiy kapital i predprinimatelskaya aktivnost lichnosti [Socio-psychological capital and person’s entrepreneurial activity]. Psihologicheskiy zhurnal [Psychological journal], 5, 33–45 (rus).
  6. Coleman, J. S. (1990). Foundations of social theory. Cambridge, AM : Harvard University Press.
  7. Nahapiet, J. and Ghoshal S. (1998). Social Capital, Intellectual Capital, and the Organizational Advantage  The Academy of Management Review, 23 (2), 242– 266.

Якщо ви знайшли помилку, будь ласка, виділіть фрагмент тексту та натисніть Ctrl+Enter.