Social Cognition Theory

Social cognition theory is based on two fundamental assumptions. One assumption is that humans learn from the behavior of other humans. The second is that it is important to understand the thought process of a human in order to make a valid and reliable psychological assessment.

Social cognitive theory uses key ideas from two main branches of psychology: cognitive psychology and social psychology. It places emphasis on the cognitive stages of information processing in the presence of social stimuli. Particularly, it assesses the impact of the “actual, imagined, or implied presence of others” on the” thoughts, feelings and behavior of individuals.”

Social cognition theory uses an amalgam of personal factors, environmental factors and behavior in order to produce its model. In the first stage of social cognition, the individual must receives and perceives a stimulus. After that, the individual encodes the perceived stimulus, using prior knowledge (such as stereotypes) to make additional decisions, judgments or inferences. During this process, a person simultaneously stores and retrieves information from memory. After the main processing of information has occurred, a behavioral response is the outcome.

Social cognition is important in many aspects of our daily lives, particularly when interacting with others. However, when we are observing or receiving information (suc as an advertisement), the theory is applicable. An advertisement represents a social stimulus. A person begins processing the images and messages within the advertisement and judges the desirability of the product or message. Whether the individual had a good experience with that product or company affects how the individual perceives the advertisement (prior knowledge/ memory).

Social cognition is important in the media because the media is a fulcrum of information and communication. For example, individuals must process news, advertising and multimedia programs. The media, particularly visual media, normally use a range of stimuli to facilitate communication.

Understanding the social cognitive processes of individuals is important to media personnel such as producers and advertisers. Media workers, particularly journalists and editors, use their understanding of human perception to write attention-grabbing headlines or produce popular programs. For example, producers are concerned about the appearance, voice and delivery of presenters based on how viewers might perceive them.

Social cognition is pertinent to communication and education- apart from being a core theory in social psychology. Social cognition is also critical to applied psychology as well, and is also useful in understanding stereotypes and biases that occur in information processing.

Useful links on social cognition: