Seminar Presentation 1-1

1-1 (Presentation within Topical Seminar 1):
What can be learned from the literature on social representations to understand workers’ motivation during work rehabilitation?

Presented by: Marie-France Coutu


Durand MJ1

  1. CAPRIT and School of Rehabilitation, Université de Sherbrooke, Longueuil, Québec, Canada



According to a previous systematic review, illness representations have an important role on work participation. A representation is a complex, organised entity including information, opinions, attitudes and beliefs on a particular subject. Studied in anthropology, sociology and psychology since the sixties, representations are often evaluated in a compartmentalized way. Objective: 1) to document existing models and conceptual frameworks on representations, 2) to establish a transdisciplinary link among findings and 3) to document the theoretical applicability in work rehabilitation for MSD.


A narrative interpretative approach was used. An electronic literature search (French, English) from 1960 to 2005, was first performed, and updated in 2014 in medical, paramedical and social science databases (MedLINE, PsychINFO, CINAHL, etc.) with predetermined key words. After screening titles, and abstract based on a set of criteria, content analysis was performed on retained articles. The inclusion criteria were as follows: (1) concerned with persistent pain of musculoskeletal origin; or (2) concerned with a theoretical or methodological model related to illness representation; and (3) contribute a new, or substantial, understanding of the main models used to interpret and analyze data. A manual search was also done of lists of references, appropriate journals and symposium proceedings.


The theoretical models and approaches can be divided into three categories: (1) personal experience; (2) interactionist; and (3) sociocultural. The models found in sociology and anthropology are mainly descriptive and developed in a medical context, and only rarely in an occupational health context. However, these models could add elements to psychosocial models that are more dynamic and oriented toward understanding the reasons behind specific behaviors.


Bridging the gap between these disciplines will help us achieve a new level of knowledge that will, by taking social constructions into account, enhance understanding of workers’ representations, and the behaviors they adopt to manage their MSD-related disability.