ISSN 2079-6617 (Print)
ISSN 2309-9828 (Online)
Ru | En
Russian Psychological Society
The Faculty of Psychology. Lomonosov Moscow State University.
Main RSS Search


Izbasarova S.A. (2020). Verbal and non-verbal methods in studying social representations of happiness. National Psychological Journal, [Natsional’nyy psikhologicheskiy zhurnal], 2021, (41)1, 53-62. doi: 10.11621/npj.2021.0105


Background. The phenomenon of “happiness” is characterized by semantic indeterminacy and is mainly considered from the correlative viewpoint. The present study proceeds from the idea of relevance and potential of multimodal approach to the analysis of multilevel socio-psychological phenomena. With this perspective in mind, social representationsof happiness were researched with the use of visual analysis of photographs as one of the qualitative methodology tools. The second method of collecting empirical material consisted in semi-structured interviews.

Objective. The aim of the study was to describe social representationsof happiness. The procedure was as follows: the sample consisted of two groups of students from 21 to 24 years old. The groups were coordinated as to their composition and socio-economic status. At the first stage of the study test subjects were asked to make a photo report consisting of five to seven photos on the topic “happiness” within a month. The data were analyzed in the light of comprehensive strategy for interpreting visual data, including hermeneutical, semiotic, structural, and discursive analyses. The scheme of photo processing and examples of empirical material are presented below. At the second stage semi-structured interviews were conducted with another group of test subjects and subsequently analyzed in the framework of thematic approach. The data obtained by different research methods were compared and subject to analysis with respect to the potential and limitations of verbal and visual methodological approaches.

Results. The study revealed the core and periphery of social representationsof happiness, and the corresponding structure and content were presented graphically. The results obtained by qualitative analysis of the photo material reflected those factors in the content of social representationsof happiness that were considered insignificant in quantitative studies. The emotional variability of the concept under study was revealed due to its visual presentation.

Conclusion. The study design presented in the paper implies both the analysis of visual data and the interview method. It has proved effective for studying complex socio-psychological phenomena. Further research could be conducted in several directions: content analysis of the phenomenon under study for other age groups; variation of study design by using other verbal methods or approaches to discourse analysis; modifying the visual data interpretation strategy for studying other multimodal phenomena.

Received: 02/24/2021
Accepted: 03/18/2021
Pages: 53-62
DOI: 10.11621/npj.2021.0105

Sections: Social Psychology;


Keywords: visual analysis; analysis of photograph; representations of happiness; happiness; multimodal strategy of research; qualitative research

Available Online 30.03.2021

  1. Abric, J.-C. (2001). A structural approach to social representations. In K. Deaux & G. Philogène (Eds.). Representations of the social: Bridging theoretical traditions. Oxford: Blackwell, p. 42–47. 

  2. Argajl M. (2003). Psychology of happiness. Saint Petersburg: Piter, 271 p. (In Russ.).

  3. Banks M. (2018). Using visual data in qualitative research. L: Sage, 152 p. doi: 10.4135/9781526445933

  4. Bart R. (1997). Camera lucida. Comments on photography. Moscow: Ad Marginem, 87 p. (In Russ.).

  5. Bart R. (2008). Mythologies. Moscow: Akademicheskij proekt, 351 p. (In Russ.).

  6. Bovina I.B., Stefanenko T.G., Tihomandrickaja O.A., Malysheva N.G., Golynchik E.O. (2009). Russia in modern world: an approach to the theory of social representations. [Electronic resourse]. Knowledge. Understanding. Skill. [humanities information portal] URL: (accessed: 12.02.21). (In Russ.).

  7. Busygina N.P. (2019). Qualitative and quantitative methods of study in psychology. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Jurajt, 423 p. (In Russ.).

  8. Cox L. (2019). The ultimate list of Instagram stats. HUBSPOT. Retrieved from: (accessed 18.02.2020). 

  9. Esin, C., M. Fathi, C. Squire. Narrative Analysis: The Constructionist Approach. (2013). — L: Sage. Available at: (accessed 12.02.2021). 

  10. Flick U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. University of East London: Sage. CHAP, xviii.

  11. Mel'nikova O.T., Horoshilov D.A. (2020). Methodological problems of qualitative studies in psychology. Moscow: Akropol', 236 p. (In Russ.).

  12. Mel'nikova O.T., Mezenceva A.S. (2018). Visual methods in social-psychological studies. Social psychology and society. [Social'naja psihologija i obshhestvo], 9 (3), 42–52. URL: (accessed: 17.02.21). (In Russ.).doi: 10.17759/sps.2018090305

  13. Shil'manskaja A.E. (2020). Possibilities of visual methods in qualitative psychological studies of personality. Cultural-historical psychology. [Kul'turno-istoricheskaja psihologija],16 (4), 49–55. doi: 10.17759/ chp.202016040/ (In Russ.).

  14. Shtompka P. (2007). Visual sociology. Photography as study method. Moscow: Logos, 200 p. (In Russ.).

For citing this article:

Izbasarova S.A. (2020). Verbal and non-verbal methods in studying social representations of happiness. National Psychological Journal, [Natsional’nyy psikhologicheskiy zhurnal], 2021, (41)1, 53-62. doi: 10.11621/npj.2021.0105

About Editorial Board Volumes Authors For Authors Indexing Contacts

National Psychological Journal, 2006 - 2022