Serge Moscovici

2003 Balzan Prize for Social Psychology

Serge Moscovici’s works are characterized by their great novelty: they have overthrown the canonical paradigms of the discipline, renewed its methods of research and its orientations, and created a European tradition in social psychology whose originality is recognized everywhere. In the sciences of man and society, Serge Moscovici is in the position of eminence, which, until the end of the 1960s, was held by Jean Piaget.

In the contemporary sciences of man and society, this scientist stands apart from all others. The breadth and diversity of his interests first inspired him to study philosophy, mathematics and the history of science, and then psychoanalysis and social psychology. His doctoral dissertation in psychoanalysis was on the image of this discipline and its public (1961), and it was followed by a series of research projects on the relations between nature and human society that allowed him to elaborate his theory of social representations and to indicate the links that bind men to each other.

Serge Moscovici connects the notion of the autonomous individual capable of initiatives and choices with notions of the family, institutions, professional categories and nations, all of which determine possibilities for action, the fate and destiny of each single individual and society as a whole.
He studies how individuals organize their experiences in the social realm, how situational dynamics develop among individuals, and as a parallel, he analyses the levels of social integration and the beliefs, values and ideologies of society.
For Serge Moscovici, the psychosocial explanation must take into account the link between the individual and the collective, between the subject and the system. This conceptualisation makes European social psychology an alternative to American social psychology, both from the theoretical as well as methodological points of view.

The theories of social representation and minority influence are major innovations, and lie at the origin of numerous research programmes that take into account individual as well as crowd behaviours.
Serge Moscovici demonstrates that individuals change when they are in groups, but he also shows that minorities are capable of changing the opinions, ways of doing things and ways of thinking of society as a whole.
The theories of social representation, the theories of social influence of the minorities and the theory of collective choice and social consensus are the three most important contributions that Serge Moscovici has made to European social psychology.

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