This paper integrates concepts from evolutionary and embodied approaches to psychology to generate a theoretical framework for understanding social cognition. We begin with the claim that cognition evolved to facilitate the ability to plan and execute action in the world. This evolution was shaped by the adaptive challenges faced by humans throughout their evolutionary history (e.g., self protection, mate selection, navigating status hierarchies, building social coalitions). We discuss how several elements of the embodied cognitive system (perception–action links, the perception of projectable and non-projectable properties of the environment, and the ability to generate mental simulations) have been shaped by evolution, and how these elements of the cognitive system ground our understanding of social cognition. We also point to areas where our framework can lead to novel directions for research. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.