The Structure of Social Cognition: In(ter)dependence of Sociocognitive Processes

Francesca Happe, Jennifer Cook, Geoff Bird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Citations (Scopus)


Social cognition is a topic of enormous interest and much research, but we are far from having an agreed taxonomy or factor structure of relevant processes. The aim of this paper is to outline briefly what is known about the structure of social cognition, and to suggest how further progress can be made to delineate the in(ter)dependence of core sociocognitive processes. We focus in particular on several processes that have been discussed and tested together in typical and atypical (notably Autism Spectrum Disorder) groups; imitation, biological motion, empathy and ‘Theory of Mind’. We consider the domain specificity/generality of core processes in social learning, reward and attention, and highlight the potential relevance of dual-process theories that distinguish systems for fast and automatic versus slow and effortful processing. We conclude with methodological and conceptual suggestions for future progress in uncovering the structure of social cognition.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnual Review of Psychology
Early online date21 Sept 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Sept 2016


  • Social cognition
  • empathy
  • imitation
  • theory of mind
  • Autism


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