General Psychology

Introduction to Social Cognition


How Social Cognition Makes Sense of Other People

Social cognition is the study of how people make general sense of other people, as well as themselves (Fiske & Taylor, 2021). The major focus is on people’s everyday understanding when it comes to a phenomenon surrounding interest, as well as a basis for theory of thought and behavior. This can include how individuals conceive the social world as a whole, and their independent social world around them.  Additionally, social cognition involves understanding the detailed analysis through social cognitive analysis methods (2021). There are four points which are relevant in understanding the perception of others (Hamilton, 2005). These points include the relativity of objects or contents, the stimulus patterns, the mechanism of attribution, and the balanced sentiment of configurations (2005). Better understanding these points and applying them to the concept of understanding people’s perceptions of the social world by which they live in, is the embodiment of social cognition.

            Due to the nature of perception, it is natural to have insecurities related to other people’s judgement (Hamilton, 2005). This is because perception varies between individuals, even when the actions and behaviors of independent individuals within a social environment remain static. Many individuals will perceive a “global impression” or a “universal interpretation” of another individual or a social group (2005). The causes of social interaction could be said to lie within the “perceived world” alone for the individual (Fiske & Taylor, 2021). This could explain why multiple individuals immersed within the same social environment, have varying experiences. And while there are active, social thinkers who try to draw parallels and find patterns, they are very commonly viewed as solely “consistency seekers” (2021).

            The concept that people are more than just objects, but that they have the power to manipulate their environment, including other people around them, helps researchers better view individuals as “action centers” (Hamilton, 2005).  These action centers can produce both benevolent, beneficial effects, or equally harmful effects, whether intentionally or by coincidence or accident (2005). People typically formulate ideas and associations between ideas and actions which take place in their space and time (Fiske & Taylor, 2021). And even early psychologists understood the value in breaking down these facets to produce independent memory processes, which better help individuals understand their environment [including other people] (2021).

            Detailing an individual’s mind as an active construct is one tool psychologists use to better enumerate an individual’s perception of their world and social environment (Fiske & Taylor, 2021). Elucidating a person’s experiences as a panel of individual dynamics, rather than as a whole, is an imperative constituent in understanding the social cognition and social development of any individual or social group (2021). Persons can be perceived as possessing abilities, acting intentionally or purposefully, having desires and sentiments, as perceiving, or as observing (Hamilton, 2005).  Constructing ideas as to how these various attributes relate and interact, better helps psychologists understand the development of social cognition within an individual and as a whole.

            Ultimately, social cognition means better understanding the way individuals interact with one another and themselves. Having a baseline for both ideas: an individual’s interactions with the world around them, and their response mechanisms which detail the way they interact with this world, would be an adequate way to define social cognition. Detailing the various points by which social cognition is defined, helps researchers better understand how an individual formulates ideas about their social world. And understanding social perception can help researchers better incorporate personal bias and figure out how objects and social mechanisms create quantifiable data that alters a person’s independent viewpoints.


Fiske, S., & Taylor, S. E. (2021). Social cognition: From brains to culture (4th.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. ISBN: 9781529702088.

Hamilton, D. (2005). Social cognition: Key readings (Key readings in Social Psychology) (1st ed.). New York, NY: Psychology Press. ISBN: 9780863775918.

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