Social cognition refers to the internal, individual-level mental structures and processes that guide personal perceptions of, inferences about, and subsequent responses to the social world. Social cognition underpins numerous theories, such as those centered on the cognitive structures (schemata) that influence perceptions—including attributes of oneself, people, and social events; attitudes that reflect evaluations of others, issues, and the self and may guide additional internal and external processes; attributions about the causes of behaviors; and explanations of how cognitive structures develop, change, and resist change over time. An assumption shared among theories of social cognition is that an individual’s perception, retention, and sensemaking processes influence interpretations of people and events and subsequently influence their behaviors in social situations.

This entry first describes three primary domains within social ...

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