Social cognition refers to the ways in which people “make sense” of themselves, other people, and the world around them. Building on social psychological contributions, this entry summarizes processes through which we perceive, interpret, remember, and apply information in our efforts to render meaning and to interact. Rather than a rationalistic depiction, we see complex relationships among cognitions, emotions, motivations, and contexts. Social cognition provides guidance to mechanisms or venues through which personal and environmental transactions related to meaning take specific form, thereby offering crucial insights into adaptive or maladaptive development as well as change strategies. A principal benefit of social cognition for social work practice is its empirically supported and broadly applicable framework for explaining how person–environment interactions unfold and might be altered in the service of social work practice and social justice. Social cognition includes, for example, social knowledge, social influences, the relationship between social structures and categories (age, race, and sex) in constructing meaning, stereotyping and other biases in information processing, dynamic processes through which memories get stored, recall, and revised, attributions of others' behavior and motives and of one's own responses and internal states, identity development, and processes through which affect, cognition, and neurophysiology interrelate as people interact with their social environments.
Paula S. Nurius
Cognitive therapy is a perspective on social work intervention with individuals, families, and groups that focuses on conscious thought processes as the primary determinants of most emotions and behaviors. It has great appeal to social work practitioners because of its utility in working with many types of clients and problem situations, and its evidence-based support in the literature. Cognitive therapies include sets of strategies focused on education, a restructuring of thought processes, improved coping skills, and increased problem-solving skills for clients.