Reality and Representations: How Americans Think About Agriculture

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Title: Reality and Representations: How Americans Think About Agriculture
Author: Fulkerson, Gregory Malone
Advisors: Robert L. Moxley, Committee Co-Chair
Ronald C. Wimberley, Committee Co-Chair
William B. Clifford, Committee Member
Jack F. Thigpen, III, Committee Member
Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation is to identify representations of agriculture in America and to develop models that predict the different representations. It is concluded that social representation theory—as it has been formalized here—is useful for explaining how Americans think about agriculture, particularly alternative representations of structure and technology. While past research on attitudes and paradigms has emphasized that personal characteristics and socioeconomic status are important predictors, this research finds that they play less of a role when controlling for variables operationalizing the propositions of social representation theory—trust of networks, personal perceptions, and pre-existing ideas. Future research should incorporate additional sets of questions operationalizing pre-existing ideas such as the way Americans think about economic efficiency and productivity as well as science and technology, as these may improve the explanatory power of the conventional representations models. Finally, a disparity between representations and reality is argued to exist that makes the current state of agricultural policy unrepresentative and therefore undemocratic.
Date: 2006-10-05
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Sociology

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