Mental Map of Europe: Changes in Perception of Zagreb High-School Students (2000–2017)
; Geografski odsjek, Prirodoslovno-matematički fakultet, Sveučilište u Zagrebu, Zagreb
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APA 6th Edition
Šakaja, L. (2019). Mental Map of Europe: Changes in Perception of Zagreb High-School Students (2000–2017) . Migracijske i etničke teme, 35 (1), 33-54. https://doi.org/10.11567/met.35.1.2
MLA 8th Edition
Šakaja, Laura. "Mental Map of Europe: Changes in Perception of Zagreb High-School Students (2000–2017) ." Migracijske i etničke teme, vol. 35, br. 1, 2019, str. 33-54. https://doi.org/10.11567/met.35.1.2. Citirano 29.05.2023.
Chicago 17th Edition
Šakaja, Laura. "Mental Map of Europe: Changes in Perception of Zagreb High-School Students (2000–2017) ." Migracijske i etničke teme 35, br. 1 (2019): 33-54. https://doi.org/10.11567/met.35.1.2
Šakaja, L. (2019). 'Mental Map of Europe: Changes in Perception of Zagreb High-School Students (2000–2017) ', Migracijske i etničke teme, 35(1), str. 33-54. https://doi.org/10.11567/met.35.1.2
Šakaja L. Mental Map of Europe: Changes in Perception of Zagreb High-School Students (2000–2017) . Migracijske i etničke teme [Internet]. 2019 [pristupljeno 29.05.2023.];35(1):33-54. https://doi.org/10.11567/met.35.1.2
L. Šakaja, "Mental Map of Europe: Changes in Perception of Zagreb High-School Students (2000–2017) ", Migracijske i etničke teme, vol.35, br. 1, str. 33-54, 2019. [Online]. https://doi.org/10.11567/met.35.1.2
How do young people living in Europe see other European countries? Which countries do they consider interesting and for what reasons? Which European spaces are associated with negative stereotypes in their mental maps? What is the image of Europe created today by filtered information flows? This paper provides answers to these questions based on researching the mental maps of Europe held by high school students in Zagreb. The methodology used in the research is based on a methodological approach, described in detail in Peter Gould’s and Rodney White’s (1986) book “Mental Maps”. It essentially consists of detecting European preference spaces by confronting respondents with a hypothetical, completely free choice of where they would like to live in Europe. The respondents were asked the following question: “Suppose you were free to choose which European country you would like to live in. Which countries would you prefer the most, and which would you never choose to live in?” Respondents were asked to score each country in a list of European countries, which, after being analysed by the statistical method of principal component analysis, made it possible to compile a ranking of European countries according to their desirability. The open-ended questions used in the survey provided insight into respondents’ perceptions of individual countries and the stereotypes and prejudices associated with individual European spaces.
The answers to the open-ended questions also allowed the reconstruction of the criteria used by young people when evaluating individual European countries in terms of the desirability to live in them. The results suggest that young people determine the desirability hierarchy of countries based on arguments that can be generalised into eight basic criteria:
1. Job opportunities, economic conditions and the economic level of development. This group is distinguished by terms such as “rich country”, “developed country”, “developed economy”, etc.
2. Political and social security and freedom. The most frequently mentioned phrases for this group were: “democratic country”, “liberalism”, “peaceful country”, etc.
3. Culture, lifestyle, centrality and urban functions. Within this group, the most commonly mentioned words are: “culture”, “rich history”, “lifestyle”, etc.
4. Ethnopsychological factors. When explaining the desire to live in certain countries, words such as “people”, “folk”, etc. are often used.
5. Nature. The most commonly mentioned factors in this group were: “natural beauty”, “beautiful scenery”, “climate”.
6. Proximity. One of the desirability factors for living in certain countries was the close proximity to their homeland and the (in)ability to visit relatives.
7. Personal reasons. This group included primarily arguments such as the existence of relatives or friends in a particular country, or knowledge of the language of the country.
8. Unspecified reasons, such as “not attractive”, “strange”, “I don’t like it” or those with opposite sentiments: “nice country”, “I like it”, etc.
The survey was conducted in 2016–2017 as a repeat of a survey conducted in 2000–2001 (Šakaja, 2001; Šakaja and Mesarić, 2001; Šakaja, 2002). Repeating the research using the same methodology and a similar sample made it possible to make a diachronic comparison of the mental maps of high-school students in Zagreb and to draw conclusions regarding continuity and changes in their perceptions of European spaces.
As the research results show, Europe is clearly divided into the developed West and the backwards East on the imaginative map of both generations of young citizens of Zagreb. Both generations perceived Europe within binary oppositions: economic prosperity/poverty, efficiency/inefficiency, modernity/backwardness, etc. Despite this continuity in the binary perception of Europe, a significant increase in Russia’s status, evident from the comparison of survey data from 2000/2001 and 2016/2017, indicates that some shifts within that binarity have occurred.
Research data also showed that when young people think about European migration destinations, the criterion of belonging to traditional, historically established European cultural circles is less relevant than before. In fact, among the most obvious changes in the mental maps of young people is the relative decline in the status of Mediterranean countries, especially Italy, as a desirable destination for migration. The countries of the Mediterranean (Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Monaco, Malta, San Marino) represented 70% of the countries whose status deteriorated from 2001 to 2017. In contrast, the status of Northern countries improved. Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland, as well as Ireland, are countries that were more popular migration destinations in 2016/2017 than at the beginning of the millennium.
The open-ended questions from the survey point to the reasons why Northern countries improved their status as desirable migration destinations. The qualitative processing of these answers suggests that the new generation mainly bases its choice of the most desirable countries on the economic performance of the destination countries, unlike the earlier generation, which cited cultural reasons rather than economic ones when evaluating countries as highly desirable.
At the very bottom of the desirability ranking, both surveys contained countries located on the Balkan peninsula. The ranking of Balkan countries, especially Albania, Serbia, and Kosovo, at the bottom of the list of spatial preferences represents one of the greatest similarities between the 2000/2001 results and the 2016/2017 results. The answers to the open-ended survey questions show a markedly negative attitude towards the possibility of living in a space perceived as “Balkan”, both because of the perceived poor economic performance of these countries and the pronounced and apparently stable negative stereotypes.
Europe, mental maps, spatial preferences
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