Catalysts and Regulators of Psychological Change in the Context of Immigration Ruptures

Author(s): Irini KADIANAKI, Tania ZITTOUN


In this chapter our aim is to show how the concept of catalysis, as taken from chemistry, can be used to understand the conditions that bring about change and support the emergence of new psychological phenomena following psychological ruptures, such as that of immigrating. Specifically, we use the concepts of semiotic catalysts and regulators, connecting the concept of catalysis to semiotic mediation (Cabell, Psychol Soc, 3(1):26–41, 2010) and to the theoretical framework of symbolic resources (Zittoun, Transitions: Development through Symbolic Resources, 2006) in order to analyse the case of Sabar, a Kurdish political refugee living in Greece (Kadianaki, Negotiating Immigration Through Symbolic Resources: The Case of Immigrants Living in Greece, 2010). Through this case study we show that catalysts are meanings introduced into the psychological system that provoke a rupture in the taken for granted. At the same time, another form of catalysts, cultural elements, introduce opposing meanings through their semiotic qualities. We show how Sabar uses these elements as semiotic regulators to deal with the immigration ruptures and orient himself in time, mediate his experiences at different levels of generality as well as his relationship with self, others, and the social world. We suggest that a catalytic framework can enrich our understanding of how ruptures emerge within the psychological system and how meanings, found or synthesized in semiotic forms, can be used to regulate these ruptures. Further, we argue that the transference of a catalytic framework into the realm of semiotic mediation can contribute to the theorization of the complexity of semiotic catalysts (i.e. complex sign arrangements), of the generativity of psychological change processes (i.e. regulators becoming catalysts) and of the complexity of the semiotic outputs (i.e. enabling multilevel mediation) of these processes.


Catalysts Regulators Immigration Symbolic resources Ruptures

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