CHILDREN IN SORRENTO: MENTAL IMAGES OF VESUVIUS
 
Carbonara, M.V., University of Salerno, Italy
 
The aim of the present research was to collect mental images of Mount Vesuvius from children living in Sorrento, a small town on the outskirts of Naples. Mount Vesuvius dominates the town skyline from different viewpoints and therefore it may be hypothesized that from infancy its inhabitants develop a well-defined mental and social representation of it. This representation abounds with elements that refer as much to its spatial collocation as to its intrinsic danger despite the fact that the volcano has shown no signs of life for more than fifty years. The experiment was carried out in a primary school with children between the ages of ten and eleven years. The methodology used included drawing and a one -to.-one interview, following which, the data was analyzed according to certain pre- established categories. These categories comprised the observation of the volcano within a local topographical context, the nature of the features present on the slopes and the crater, the degree to which the volcano was either active or inactive and the signs of emergency occurring in the scenes represented. The results show, on one hand, a realistic collocation of the image of Vesuvius within the mental map of the local area in the minds of the children who were interviewed, and on the other hand, a marked affective love / fear ambivalence towards this specific environmental element which can generate such emotive resonance in the inhabitants of this place.