Social cognition and people skills:

A parent's evidence-based guide

© 2006-2011 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved

"Social cognition" refers to the ways we perceive, think, and learn about people. Looking for information about how these abilities develop? In these pages, you'll find articles about

  • stereotype threat, a widespread psychological condition that can sabotage a child's performance in school and elsewhere.

In addition, you can read about empathy, a key component of social cognition and moral reasoning. Empathy permits us to share the pain of another individual, and researchers have documented such "second hand distress" in a variety of creatures, including monkeys and mice (Langford et al 2006). Human children show signs of empathy from a very early age, but full-blown empathy doesn't just "emerge" without any prompting from the environment.

Read about the neurological basis for empathy, as well as the case for actively teaching kids to think about the feelings of others. In addition, see these evidence-based tips for fostering empathy.

References: Social cognition

Eisenberg N and Fabes 1998. Prosocial development. In W. Damon (ed): Handbook of child psychology, volume 3: Social, emotional, and personality development. 5th edition. New York: Wiley.

Langford DJ, Crager SE, Shehzad Z, Smith SB, Sotocinal SG, Levenstadt JS, Chanda ML, Levitin DJ, and Mogil JS. 2006. Social Modulation of Pain as Evidence for Empathy in Mice. Science. 312(5782):1967-70.

Warneken, F. & Tomasello, M. (2007). Helping and cooperation at 14 months of age. Infancy 11(3): 271–294.

Content last modified 11/11

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