Cognitive Polyphasia as a Strategy for Pre-Adaptation to Social Changes



The article analyzes the mechanism of cognitive polyphasia, considered in the context of S. Mosсoviсi’s theory of social representations. In social thinking coexist often incompatible with each other cognitive attitudes that enter into dynamic relationships with each other. The work of cognitive polyphasia can be traced on the example of doublethink in the history of Soviet everyday life. Doublethink is considered a characteristic of not only individual, but also social, mass consciousness (G. Orwell), which makes it possible to distinguish between the concepts of ambivalence (S. Freud), double messages (G. Bateson), and cognitive dissonance (L. Festinger). Using examples from Soviet history and culture, the following proposition is proved: doublethink is the practice of constructing a subject of social cognition and behavior under conditions of authoritarianism and totalitarianism. The diaries of the writer Yu. M. Nagibin. But doublethink is also being reproduced in post-Soviet Russia, as can be clearly seen from the sociological discussion about the “Soviet Man” (Homo Soveticus). If the supporters of the scientific school of Yu. A. Levada and L. D. Gudkov believe that the implicit model of a person, constructed in Soviet everyday life, is quite stable and reproducible from Stalin’s time up to the present day, new studies of “millennials” conducted at the Higher School of Economics under V. V. Radaev reveal differences between the generational groups of Russians in a number of value characteristics related to both the way of life and the perception of the surrounding world. Competing interpretations of the problem of “Soviet Man” are combined, according to the author of the article, with the help of the psychological concept of cognitive polyphasia. Doublethink as a specific historical form of cognitive polyphasia has, first of all, a prognostic function: the spontaneous generation of vivid images in culture and art, which has an “unofficial” and even marginal status, as in the avantgarde of the 1920s and postmodernism of the 1990s, has a preadaptive potential to future social changes and crises.

General Information

Keywords: doublethink, Soviet Man, cognitive polyphasia, social representations, preadaptation to uncertainty

Journal rubric: Theory and Methodology of Psychology

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The study was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, project nо. 20-04-60072,“Psychological and social determinants of the negative consequences of a pandemic: a systematic analysis of the role of factors of long-term individual and social population compliance in minimizing harm from coronavirus infection”.

Received: 20.02.2022


For citation: Khoroshilov D.A. Cognitive Polyphasia as a Strategy for Pre-Adaptation to Social Changes. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Psychology, 2022. Vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 161–171. DOI: 10.21638/spbu16.2022.205. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Dmitry A. Khoroshilov, PhD in Psychology, Senior Research Associate, Department of Social Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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