Social Cognition

Cognition, Perception, and Language

4. Conceptual Understanding and Achievements

  1. Paul L. Harris

Published Online: 1 JUN 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470147658.chpsy0219

Handbook of Child Psychology

Handbook of Child Psychology

How to Cite

Harris, P. L. 2007. Social Cognition. Handbook of Child Psychology. II:4:19.

Author Information

  1. Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 JUN 2007


This chapter addresses the child's understanding of people's actions, thoughts, and feelings. It begins with a brief description of an early controversy about whether very young children are egocentric or socially engaged. More recent research falling within the theory-of-mind framework is then reviewed in three main sections devoted to infancy, early childhood, and later functioning. Subsequently, four comparative issues are explored: How far does the social cognition of the human child differ from that of nonhuman primates? How far do children growing up in different cultures vary in their social cognition? What distinguishes children with autism from normal children? How should we explain individual differences in social cognition among normal children? The chapter ends by discussing the implications of social cognition for children's social behavior and their trust in various sources of information, as well as notable landmarks in the development of a theory of mind.


  • autism;
  • beliefs;
  • desires;
  • emotion;
  • goals;
  • nonhuman primate;
  • reflective functioning;
  • source monitoring;
  • social referencing;
  • theory-of-mind