Social Representations and Symbolic Coping: A Cross-Cultural Discourse Analysis of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Newspapers

Peter Phillips, Tony Cassidy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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This study used a framework grounded in social representations theory to investigate cross-cultural variation and consistency in the discursive construction of the COVID-19 pandemic by the mass media, in the week following WHO’s declaration of a global pandemic in March 2020. News reports from media outlets in the United Kingdom and China were sourced, with articles from the most popular media sources selected for analysis. Four discourses were identified to be the most prominent representations present throughout these accounts: war; other illnesses; a general emergency; an unknown situation. The findings demonstrated consistency with past research, highlighting how the sociogenesis of social representations in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic followed a similar pattern to other novel infectious disease outbreaks. Consistency between UK and Chinese media accounts was identifiable throughout the construction of these discourses; however, variation was detectable regarding use of culturally relevant anchors for existing illness representations, along with Chinese media accounts constructing images of a comparatively optimistic local situation, whilst depicting the rest of the world as in the midst of a global emergency. Future research has the potential to build on these findings by going beyond media representations to explore actual lay population beliefs, attitudes, and opinions, considering how they compare to the representations portrayed in mass-mediated news reports.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Communication
Early online date29 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 29 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Communication
  • Health (social science)


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