Chapter Nine: Social Cognition

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University of Massachusetts Amherst
Psychology & Brain Sciences
Lori Astheimer Best

Developmental Psychology Chapter Nine: Social Cognition Social cognition is the thinking processes and representations that are relevant to the social world. Orienting to the social world: First signs appear around two months old aka the “Two month revolution.”  Lengthier periods of alertness, displays a social smile, shows a distinct preference for scanning the human face, and exhibits a peak in crying. Detecting animacy: By the age of three and four, children have a solid understanding of the categories of living versus nonliving things. Gaze following: Young infants are aware that looking at another person’s eyes provides valuable information, not just about their internal feelings and thoughts, but also about which information in the surrounding vicinity is worth attending to. Social referencing: Involves looking at another individual for emotional cues in interpreting a strange or ambiguous event. When placed in an unfamiliar situation, children will typically look to their caregivers for some sort of emotional cue. The facial expression the caregiver provides typically will influence the infant’s own emotional response and subsequent actions. Understanding other’s goals and intentions: By making judgments about which behavior to emulate based on human intentions, infants are focusing their processing of information on behaviors that are relevant for their particular social and cultural environments. Representation: Piaget argued that children were unable to recognize symbols until the end of the sensorimotor stage (18 months) but other evidence contradicts this finding.  Before age one children already use hand gestures to stand for objects or events. Understanding photographs and drawings, Children do not quite understand photographs; when they are shown one they react to it the same way as if it were the real object.  Example; if shown a picture of a baby bottle, the infant would put its mouth on it.  They begin to understand them around nineteen months.  When shown two pictures of the same object but from a different angle, infants will believe that the two pictures are identical. They also ignore lightness and darkness in a photograph as well.  Meta-representation refers to the progress in understanding the ways in which images are created, the messages communicated by different design elements, and an appreciation for the fact that representations can hel
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