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Social Cognition

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Social Cognition Social cognition is the way we perceive, interpret and judge the behaviours of others in social situations. (Leyens and Dardenne, 1996) Our understanding of social cognition was developed by Helder and Kelly in 1955. Helder believed that people want to understand and control their social environment, and they do this by acting as "naive psychologists" and trying to work out people's behaviour. Kelly believed that people acted like scientists by trying to predict social situations and he proposed that we use ways of classifying people and objects. To understand social cognition, we need to understand how we get information about people, and how we apply it. This can be done using Schema Theory, Heuristics, and Social Categorisation. Schema Theory A schema is defined as a cognitive structure containing knowledge about a concept (Fiske and Taylor,1992), in other words it is a sort of mental plan for a social situation, that decides what we pay attention to and what we ignore. There are four different types of schemata: self, person, role and script. ...read more.


males - females, or teenagers - the elderly. Even if there is very little information, or if it has been proved wrong in the past, we still categorise. Every category is associated with a Prototype- an example of what we expect people in the category to be like. Categorisation is useful because it allows us to process a lot of information quickly and easily, however generalising people into a category always leads to some distortion due to missing information. This results in bias and errors. One error is the Confirmatory Bias. This is when we actively look for information that matches what we expect, and ignore information that doesn't match. The other is the False Consensus Bias. This is when we believe that when we know about our own behaviour, then we know about other people's. Social Identity Theory While schemata and heuristics are based solely on how people as individuals understand social situations, social categorisation and social identity theory are used to understand how people socialise as part of groups. The social identity theory is defined as how membership of social groups affects self-concept and determines reactions to people and events (Hayes, 1993) ...read more.


Social Representation Another approach to looking at how people see the world is Social Representation. According to this theory, we do not try to find an accurate explanation of the world, instead we act as "cognitive misers" and use a representation of the world. A social representation can be defined as a shared belief held by a group of people to explain their social experience (Moscovici, 1981) An example of this would be if a group of people heard a car accident but did not see it .When they go to the scene of the accident, they see two damaged cars but no-one has been injured. As none of them know what has happened, they all discuss what they think happened, based on their prior knowledge. Although everyone has their own ideas, discussing them will lead to the group forming a shared conclusion about what they think happened. This is a social representation of the event. Social representation also focuses on groups as well as individuals, and many representations are explanations shared between members of an "in-group".The same event can often be explained in completely different ways by different groups e.g. opposing political parties. ...read more.

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3* The essay identifies certain key features of social cognition with some description, however it needs to refer to one or two relevant theories and to evaluate one or two studies including reference to applications.

Marked by teacher Stephanie Duckworth 10/09/2013

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