Editor: Donal E. Carlston

Publisher: Oxford University Press – 948 pages

Book Review by: Nano Khilnani

Social cognition is an area of social psychology that deals with cognitive impulses, mental representations, and processes involved in interaction with others, as well as an approach to studying interaction in the context of groups, cultures, and societies to which they belong.

This book provides a comprehensive and current review of major topics in social cognition, particularly:

  • the central aspects of the field of social cognition
  • its history and historically important foundational research areas, such as: attitudes, attribution, impression formation, and prejudice/stereotyping
  • research methodology
  • core issues relating to social cognitive representations and processes ( including those that are automatic, implicit, and visual)
  • stages of information processing (attention, perception, memory and judgment, along with stimulation and thought suppression)
  • applications of the social cognition approach to the areas of social psychology, general psychology, and other disciplines such as health, law, marketing and politics

Some educators in the field of social psychology provide their insights on the value of this text by writing that it is comprehensive and innovative, and that it has depth as well.

Russell H. Fazio of Ohio State University writes: “This amazingly comprehensive volume showcases the emergence of the social cognition perspective and the wide variety of domains of inquiry that have been illuminated by the approach.”

Reid Hastie of the Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business comments: “…almost all of the major thinkers in this field have contributed chapters that are innovative, erudite, and enjoyable to read.”

Diane Mackie of the University of California at Santa Barbara observes: “The breadth and depth of the contributions to this seminal volume illustrate the explanatory, integrative and generative reach of the social cognition  approach to human behavior.”

The material for the 43 chapters was written by 91 contributors from the United States, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

This book is divided into four Parts:

1. History and Foundations of Social Cognition
2. Mental Representation and Information Processing
3. Social Cognition and Social Psychology
4. Synergies with Other Realms of Social Science

This is an important, extensive, and I would add, foundational work on the most important aspects of social psychology, particularly in the relatively new and growing area of social cognition. We commend the editor for his efforts in gathering material from contributors, organizing, and presenting it in this valuable volume.

Donal E. Carlston, PhD is Professor of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University. He won the Society of Experimental Social Psychology Dissertation Ward in 1978 for his early work in social cognition and subsequently coauthored two of the first books in the field in 1979 and 1980.

He was editor of the journal Social Cognition from 1993 to 2005 and has been organizer of the prestigious Duck Conference on Social Cognition since 1994. In 2009 he received the Ostrom Award for Lifetime Contributions in Social Cognition.