Social cognition

Handb Clin Neurol. 2020:173:255-264. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-64150-2.00022-8.


Social cognition refers to a complex set of mental abilities underlying social stimulus perception, processing, interpretation, and response. Together, these abilities support the development of adequate social competence and adaptation. Social cognition has a protracted development through infancy to adulthood. Given the preponderance of social dysfunctions across neurologic conditions, social cognition is now recognized as a core domain of functioning that warrants clinical attention. This chapter provides an overview of the construct of social cognition, defines some of the most clinically significant sociocognitive abilities (face processing, facial expression processing, joint attention, theory of mind, empathy, and moral processing), and introduces the neural networks and frameworks associated with these abilities. Broad principles for understanding the development of social cognition are presented, and a summary of normative developmental milestones of clinically relevant sociocognitive abilities is proposed. General guidelines for sound social cognition assessment in children and adolescents are summarized.

Keywords: Assessment; Development; Emotion; Empathy; Face processing; Joint attention; Moral reasoning; Social brain; Social cognition; Theory of mind.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention
  • Child
  • Cognition
  • Emotions
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Cognition*
  • Social Perception*