Metarelational Models: Morally Motivated Configurations of Social Relationships

Alan Fiske
Alan Fiske
  • Speaker
UCLA College of Letters and Science, University of California Los Angeles

Event Information

Research Seminar
Organisational Behaviour & HRM
Thu. 11 Oct. 2012
12:00-13:30 hours
Mandeville Building T8-67


Beyond cognizing persons and social relationships, people also think about combinations of relationships: metarelational models (MeRMs). If relationships are words, then MeRMs are syntax; if relationships are atoms, MeRMs are chemical compounds. MeRMs are the motivated, emotionally experienced, morally directive models for generating, understanding, coordinating, planning, evaluating, modulating, sanctioning, and redressing configurations of social relationships. Previous research and theory on triads and balance, networks, cross-cutting ties, and kinship systems has explored the causal connections among social relationships, but MeRM theory posits something more: shared, culturally informed cognitive MeRMs that people use to jointly construct meaningful coordinated action. The social interactions of nonhuman animals and pre-verbal infants indicate that they use MeRMs, supporting the contention that core innate cognition includes the basic structures of MeRMs. There are six elementary kinds of MeRMs, and recursive linking of relational models (RMs) generates indefinitely more. MeRMs shape individual psychology, relationships, groups, institutions, and cultures.  Some MeRMs strongly foster violence; other MeRMs inhibit violence.
Contact information:
Dicea Jansen
Steffen Giessner
Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Change
  • Coordinator