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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

Social Representations of Insects as Food: An Explorative-Comparative Study among Millennials and X-Generation Consumers

1
Department of Social Sciences, University of Naples “Federico II”, 80138 Naples, Italy
2
Department of Political Sciences, University of Naples “Federico II”, 80138 Naples, Italy
3
Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Naples “Federico II”, 80055 Portici (NA), Italy
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Insects 2020, 11(10), 656; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11100656
Received: 4 September 2020 / Revised: 18 September 2020 / Accepted: 22 September 2020 / Published: 24 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Edible Insects and Global Food Security)
In recent years, a remarkable number of studies have investigated entomophagy from different perspectives. Nevertheless, the theoretical framework of social representations (SRs) has never been used. SRs are organized sets of opinions, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about a social object—such as novel foods—co-constructed and shared by a social group. The present research is the first attempt to study entomophagy in the theoretical and methodological framework of SRs. We followed a double trajectory corresponding to two different ways to imagine the contribution of SRs to entomophagy studies. The first one focuses on the role of SRs in the social construction of meanings attached to entomophagy and on their introduction in individuals’ and groups’ thinking frameworks. The second proposes SRs as predictors, even if non-deterministic, of consumers’ behaviors. The results stimulate consideration of social knowledge and cultural variables in food studies using the theoretical framework of SRs.
The aim of the research here presented is to describe and compare the social representations of entomophagy co-constructed and circulating among different groups of consumers. Social representations theory (SRT) allows us to understand a social reality that the individual builds based on his own experience in everyday life symbolic exchanges, whose primary function is to adapt concepts and abstract ideas using objectification and anchoring processes. We carried out this research within the structural approach methodological framework. We explored the structure (central core and peripheral schemes) and the content (information, opinions, attitudes, and beliefs) of the social representations of entomophagy by using mixed methodological strategies (hierarchized evocations, validated scales, check-list, projective tool, open-ended questions). Data were processed employing different R packages. The main results show an essential role played by generative processes (objectification and anchoring) as well as cognitive polyphasia and thémata in the co-construction of the social representations of entomophagy. Data could help in understanding the sensory characteristics of “insects as food” that should be used or avoided, for example, in communication aimed to promote entomophagy. View Full-Text
Keywords: social representations; cognitive polyphasia; thémata; entomophagy; food culture social representations; cognitive polyphasia; thémata; entomophagy; food culture
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Fasanelli, R.; Galli, I.; Riverso, R.; Piscitelli, A. Social Representations of Insects as Food: An Explorative-Comparative Study among Millennials and X-Generation Consumers. Insects 2020, 11, 656.

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