Social Cognition is how people perceive, think about, interpret, categorize, and judge their own social behaviors and those of others.

how we perceive and judge our social behaviour and others’ social behaviour

Key factors affecting social cognition

Perspective Taking Stereotyping and Prejudice Empathy Social Judgements and Decision Making

Concepts in Social Cognition



mental shortcuts to make decisions

A rule of thumb or a shortcut that helps solve a problem or make a decision quickly and efficiently.

Unlike algorithms, it is not always successful. It cuts the time needed to make a decision, but it does not always guarantee a solution / the right solution.

First formulated by Herbert A Simon - a cognitive psychologist and economist - in the 1950s

More was added by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in the 1970s

common heuristics are availability heuristic how readily we are able to come up with examples representative heuristic making judgments or assumptions based on how closely something or someone fits our preconceived prototype or mental representation anchoring and adjustment heuristics involves relying heavily on an initial piece of information (the anchor) and adjusting subsequent judgments or decisions based on that anchor affect heuristic decisions based on our moods and emotions

see also: Thinking and Reasoning algorithms cognitive bias

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cognitive framework

Schemas are patterns of thought or behavior that organize information into categories abstractions that simplify a person’s world basic knowledge of an entity that serves as a guide to perception, interpretation, imagination, or problem solving based on past experiences and knowledge

can also lead to biases and stereotypes if they oversimplify or distort our understanding of individuals or groups

(think schematics, as in plans)

mental concept vs schema categorization

Thinking and Reasoning schema vs mental set - they are NOT the same. schema is a framework, mental set is an approach to problem-solving, more specifically, the tendency to approach the problem in the same way that was successful in the past

Frederick Bartlett - War of the Ghosts

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Automatic and Controlled Processing



Affect is a term used to describe experience of feeling or emotion.

It can be understood as a combination of three components: emotion, mood (enduring, less intense emotional states that are not necessarily tied to a specific event), and affectivity (an individual’s overall disposition or temperament)

Dimensions of Affect:

  1. Valence
  2. Arousal
  3. Motivational Intensity

Emotions: predispositions to a certain type of action in response to a specific stimulus, which produce a cascade of rapid and synchronized physiological and cognitive changes.

Feeling: not all feelings include emotion, such as the feeling of knowing. In the context of emotion, subjective representation of emotions. Emotions are often described as the raw, instinctive responses, while feelings involve our interpretation and awareness of those responses.

Moods: enduring affective states that are considered less intense than emotions and appear to lack a contextual stimulus.

Affect: a broader term used to describe the emotional and cognitive experience of an emotion, feeling or mood.



Affective dimension information

DimensionQuestion: To what extent does this make you feel (1…9)
Approach…Like this is something you would want to approach? (desire to avoid…desire to approach)
Arousal…Stimulated? (more subdued…more stimulated)
Attention…Focused? (more unfocused…more focused)
Certainty…Certain? (very uncertain…very certain)
Commitment…A sense of commitment to an individual or creature? (lack of commitment to an individual/ creature …strong commitment to an individual/creature)
Control…Like things are under control? (things seem out of control…things seem under control)
Dominance…Dominant? (more submissive…more dominant)
Effort…Like viewing this demands effort? (no effort whatsoever…enormous effort)
Fairness…Like things are fair? (sense of unfairness…sense of fairness)
Identity…Like you identify with a group of people? (lack of group identity…strong group identity)
Obstruction…Like you’re obstructed by something? (very unobstructed…very obstructed)
Safety…A sense of safety? (very unsafe…very safe)
Upswing…Like this went better than it first seemed it would? (worse than expected…better than expected)
Valence…Pleasant? (very unpleasant…very pleasant)
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How affect influences social cognition:

  1. Emotional Priming primes our cognitive thoughts and shapes it. eg, being in a positive mood might make us look at things more positively
  2. Emotional Contagion emotions can be contagious as in others’ emotions can influence ours
  3. Intuitive Emotional Reactions


Thinking and Reasoning How it affects social cognition:

  1. Attribution
  2. Stereotypes and Prejudice
  3. Perspective Taking