The Evolution of Social Cognition

Lisa A. Parr and Bridget M. Waller

in The Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780195342161
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The Evolution of Social Cognition

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Social Psychology



This chapter discusses several issues important for understanding the evolution of social cognition, defined simply as the collection of skills that are important, and perhaps unique, to living in groups. These skills are not limited to but may include social recognition, recognition of social communication signals, like facial expressions, following gaze/perspective taking, and understanding others’ intentions. Social cognition can be fully understood through careful examination of the communicative patterns that occur between individuals, each with unique relationship history. In this view, social cognition is best described as a form of distributed cognition, an emergent property of unique relationships within a social environment.

Keywords: communication; emotion; facial expression; cooperation; empathy; theory of mind; homology; brain size; social function; social complexity; social affordance; primates; evolution; social cognition

Article.  6856 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Social Psychology

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