Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Social Cognition

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3146-1



Processing information on other agents, their relations and interactions, necessary for social behavior and group living.


Social cognition is a broad range of processes underlying agents’ ability to identify, represent, and respond to other agents and groups, their behaviors, intentions, and relations. It covers many aspects of human cognition, such as perception, memory, attention, to the extent that they refer to social stimuli, but also deals with some more specific phenomena: social categorization, biases and stereotypes, imitation, Theory of Mind, or emotions. In a broad sense, social cognition encompasses affective processes as well perception, memory, or reasoning. The traditional division between cognitive and affective sides of human subjectivity was challenged by Damasio (1994) and is currently not considered as a fundamental and objective division. Instead, they can be seen as a set of closely connected and...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Ackerman, J. M., Huang, J. Y., & Bargh, J. A. (2012). Evolutionary perspectives on social cognition. In S. T. Fiske & C. N. Macrae (Eds.), The Sage handbook of social cognition (pp. 451–473). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bergman, T. J., & Beehner, J. C. (2015). Measuring social complexity. Animal Behavior, 103, 203–209.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.02.018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourdieu, P. (1980). Le Sens de Pratique. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.Google Scholar
  4. Byrne, R. W. (1996). Machiavellian intelligence. Evolutionary Anthropology, 5, 172–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Byrne, R. W., & Whiten, A. (Eds.). (1988). Machiavellian intelligence: Social expertise and the evolution of intellect in monkeys, apes, and humans. New York: Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cunningham, W. A., Johnson, M. K., Raye, C. L., Gatenby, J. C., Gore, J. C., & Banaji, M. R. (2004). Separable neural components in the processing of Black and White faces. Psychological Science, 15, 806–813.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00760.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ error: Emotion, rationality and the human brain. New York: Putnam.Google Scholar
  8. De Neys, W. (Ed.). (2018). Dual process theory 2.0. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Dos Santos, M., & West, S. A. (2018). The coevolution of cooperation and cognition in humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 285.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.0723.
  10. Dunbar, R. I. M. (1998). The social brain hypothesis. Evolutionary Anthropology, 6, 178–190.  https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1520-6505(1998)6:5<178::AID-EVAN5>3.0.CO;2-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Evans, J. S. B. T. (2008). Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 255–278.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093629.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J. C., & Glick, P. (2007). Universal dimensions of social cognition: Warmth and competence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 77–83.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2006.11.005.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Freeberg, T. M., Gentry, K. E., Sieving, K. E., & Lucas, J. R. (2019). On understanding the nature and evolution of social cognition: A need for the study of communication. Animal Behavior, 155, 279–286.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2019.04.014.
  14. Freeman, J. B., Rule, N. O., Adams, R. B., & Amady, N. (2010). The neural basis of categorical face perception: Graded representations of face gender in fusiform and orbitofrontal cortices. Cerebral Cortex, 20, 1314–1322.  https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhp195.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Gallese, V., Keysers, C., & Rizzolatti, G. (2004). A unifying view of the basis of social cognition. Trends in Cognitive Science, 8, 396–403.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2004.07.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Greifeneder, R., Bless, H., & Fiedler, K. (2018). Social cognition: How individuals construct social reality (2nd ed.). London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Han, S., & Humphreys, G. (2016). Self-construal: A cultural framework for brain function. Current Opinion in Psychology, 8, 10–14.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.09.013.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Happé, F., Cook, J. L., & Bird, G. (2017). The structure of social cognition: In(ter)dependence of sociocognitive processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 68, 243–267.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010416-044046.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Herrmann, E., Call, E., Call, J., Hernandez-Lioreda, M. V., Hare, B., & Tomasello, M. (2007). Humans have evolved specialized skills of social cognition: The cultural intelligence hypothesis. Science, 317, 1360–1366.  https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1146282.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Holekamp, K. E. (2007). Questioning the social intelligence hypothesis. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 65–69.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2006.11.003.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Kaschak, M. P., & Maner, J. L. (2009). Embodiement, evolution, and social cognition: An integrative framework. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 1236–1244.  https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lieberman, M. D. (2007). Social cognitive neuroscience: A review of core processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 259–289.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.58.110405.085654.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. MacLean, E. L. (2016). Unravelling the evolution of uniquely human cognition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113, 6348–6354.  https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1521270113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Oyserman, D., Novin, S., Flinkenflögel, N., & Krabbendam, L. (2014). Integrating culture-as-situated-cognition and neuroscience prediction models. Culture and Brain, 2(1), 1–26.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s40167-014-0016-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Parker, S. T., & Gibson, K. R. (1977). Object manipulation, tool use and sensorimotor intelligence as feeding adaptations in great apes and cebus monkeys. Journal of Human Evolution, 6, 623–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Platt, M. L., Seyfarth, R. M., & Cheney, D. L. (2016). Adaptations for social cognition in the primate brain. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 371, 1–10.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2015.0096.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Reader, S. M., Hager, Y., & Laland, K. N. (2011). The evolution of primate general and cultural intelligence. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 366, 1017–1027.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rosati, A. G. (2017). Foraging cognition: Reviving the ecological intelligence hypothesis. Trends in Cognitive Science, 21, 691–702.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2017.05.011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Saxe, R. (2006). Uniquely human social cognition. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 16, 235–239.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conb.2006.03.001.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Seyfarth, R. M., & Cheney, D. L. (2014). The evolution of language from social cognition. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 28, 5–9.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conb.2014.04.003.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Shettleworth, S. J. (2010). Cognition, evolution, and behavior (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Thompson, B., Kirby, S., & Smith, K. (2016). Culture shapes the evolution of cognition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113, 4530–4535.  https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1523631113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tomasello, M. (1999). The cultural origins of human cognition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Tomasello, M. (2014). The ultra-social animal. European Journal of Social Psychology, 44, 187–194.  https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2015.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., Call, J., Behne, T., & Moll, H. (2005). Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28, 675–691.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X05000129.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Whiten, A., & Byrne, R. W. (Eds.). (1997). Machiavellian intelligence II: Extensions and evaluations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Yang, D. Y.-J., Rosenblau, G., Keifer, C., & Pelphrey, K. A. (2015). An integrative neural model of social perception, action observation, and theory of mind. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 51, 263–275.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.01.020.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent ResearcherUlyanovskRussia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Catherine Salmon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of RedlandsRedlandsUSA