Social Cognition

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


We live within a social context and this influences our reasoning. The roots of social reasoning abilities can be traced to our ability to perceive and react to the emotional expressions of others. These inform us about the mental states of others and our knowledge of other people’s perspectives is known as theory of mind. Some other species including chimpanzees, elephants, and cetaceans also exhibit some degree of theory of mind. Other species that have large brains and live in social groups show the ability to learn from one another. The learning can take place across species or from parent to offspring within family groups. Some of these learning abilities resemble human reasoning, as they can be innovative, unique to one population that discovered the technique, and able to be passed from one individual to others. When people engage in group-based reasoning tasks, they can be highly successful. When groups take on unintuitive cognitive tasks, they can outperform the individuals. Less optimistic outcomes are sometimes found for idea generation in groups. This is frequently due to the complex social dynamics that occur in association with generating ideas. There can be dominant individuals that inhibit the contributions of others. There can also be timing challenges and limitations of attention that undermine group-based idea generation. When people reason in pairs, they are often faced with the decision to compete and act in their own best interests, or cooperate and attempt to arrive at a solution that fits everyone. Some research shows that people will choose to cooperate and allow both members of a pair to come out ahead. Factors including empathy and considering possible future opportunities for mutual benefits tend to drive us to cooperate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationReasoning
Subtitle of host publicationThe Neuroscience of how we Think
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9780128092859
ISBN (Print)9780128095768
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Brainstorming
  • Competition
  • Cooperation
  • Cultural differences
  • Emotion
  • Groups
  • Hormones
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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