Mechanisms of Social Cognition

Posted: 13 Jan 2012

Date Written: January 2012

Abstract

Social animals including humans share a range of social mechanisms that are automatic and implicit and enable learning by observation. Learning from others includes imitation of actions and mirroring of emotions. Learning about others, such as their group membership and reputation, is crucial for social interactions that depend on trust. For accurate prediction of others' changeable dispositions, mentalizing is required, i.e., tracking of intentions, desires, and beliefs. Implicit mentalizing is present in infants less than one year old as well as in some nonhuman species. Explicit mentalizing is a meta-cognitive process and enhances the ability to learn about the world through self-monitoring and reflection, and may be uniquely human. Meta-cognitive processes can also exert control over automatic behavior, for instance, when short-term gains oppose long-term aims or when selfish and prosocial interests collide. We suggest that they also underlie the ability to explicitly share experiences with other agents, as in reflective discussion and teaching. These are key in increasing the accuracy of the models of the world that we construct.

Suggested Citation

Frith, Chris D. and Frith, Uta, Mechanisms of Social Cognition (January 2012). Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 63, pp. 287-313, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1982982 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-120710-100449

Chris D. Frith (Contact Author)

Aarhus University ( email )

Nordre Ringgade 1
Aarhus, DK-8000
Denmark

Uta Frith

Aarhus University ( email )

Nordre Ringgade 1
Aarhus, DK-8000
Denmark

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