The embodiment of cultural meanings. Symbolic universes as forms of life

Sergio Salvatore, Alessia Rochira, Nik Kharlamov

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


According to Semiotic Dynamic Cultural Psychology Theory, symbolic universes denote affective-laden systems of assumptions that inform people’s identity as well as their thinking, acting and behaving. Given their affective nature, symbolic universes can be considered embodied forms of meanings that mould bodily activation. Along with results from previous transnational research that detected five main symbolic universes characterizing the cultural milieu of European societies-Ordered Universe, Interpersonal Bond, Caring Society, Niche of Belongingness, and Other’s world—this study aimed at addressing the embodied nature of symbolic universes. In particular, it explored the association between the symbolic universes and the level of exploration of a visual stimulus (a picture)—namely the amount of time dedicated to the peripheral regions of the visual stimulus. To this end, an eye-tracking paradigm was implemented in a study involving 29 (F = 15) participants (university students aged 20–23). The classification of each participant in terms of the most representative symbolic universe was carried out by means of the questionnaire designed for this purpose (VOC questionnaire). The research findings showed the association between the symbolic universes and level of exploration, in so doing suggesting that the symbolic universes may affect the spatial visual attention of individuals. Theoretical, methodological and practical implications of the study are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSymbolic universes in time of (post)crisis : The future of European societies
EditorsSergio Salvatore, Viviana Fini, Terri Mannarini, Jaan Valsiner, Giuseppe Alessandro Veltri
Number of pages19
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Publication date2019
Commissioning bodyEU - Horizon 2020
ISBN (Print)9783030194963
ISBN (Electronic) 9783030194970
Publication statusPublished - 2019
SeriesCulture in policy making: The symbolic universes of social action


  • semiotic cultural psychology
  • symbolic universes
  • semiotic dynamics
  • affect
  • meaning-making
  • embodiment
  • visual attention
  • eye tracking


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