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Abstract

The present article is concerned with first considerations and data for a theory of social cognitions. A taxonomy of social cognitions is suggested comprising three classes: causal, evaluative and finalistic thinking. These classes are subdivided according to the social perspective taken, i.e. self-directed versus other-directed thinking. The situational preconditions of these social cognition classes are studied in different social episodes each comprising either positive or negative, expected or unexpected events. The results show that the most reasoning about a situation occurs when it is an important private episode with an unexpected and affectively negatively experienced event. The data concerning the natural occurrence of the three cognition classes is interpreted as providing suggestions of their functional meaning: The functions of the three classes of social cognitions are labelled ‘information integration’ (self-directed evaluative thinking), ‘action planning’ (self-directed finalistic thinking and other-directed causal thinking), ‘control of negative feelings’ (self-directed causal, and finalistic thinking) and ‘understanding’ (other-directed finalistic and evaluative thinking and self-directed causal thinking).