Why is Social Cognition Pivotal for Youth Development?   


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Social Cognition in Youth Development

Today’s environment requires far more variegated decision-making, which is more biased by unconscious factors than the conscious ones, which ends up affecting every sphere of one’s life. Brain development is much more complex than a story about psychology or biology, for that matter. This is the reason Social Cognition in Youth Development is an extensive study.

Youths are highly reactive people. If you find yourself acting differently because you are being observed or your pals are watching you, your social cognition has been engaged.

What is Social Cognition?

When we use the term cognition, we refer to unconscious mechanisms in the mind (the brain) that bring about representations (a neural implementation of experience). We can be consciously aware of these representations but mostly we are unaware of them.”Uta Frith, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore.

Cognition becomes social with the interaction of other human beings. Social cognition can be termed as a process through which one interprets various information present in their social environment. Therefore the person behaves accordingly in a social scenario, be it one-to-one interaction or a social group. 

Youths particularly have a penchant for social interactions and edifying their connections. We may be aware of the presence of differences of opinion in different persons but still are offended by contrasting statements. Social cognition in youth development is a complex part to analyze. Being aware of the fact that every 2 souls are different is apparently not enough to control the unconscious fluids jamming our brains.

Why Social Cognition is Pivotal in the development of Youth?

The cause and effect of social cognition in youth development are multi-faceted. From the earliest years of our life, relationship with others plays a key role in shaping how our brain grows and develops in order to react. Social cognition is engaged now and again, for instance, in feeling pain for someone else’s agony or being happy by seeing others happy.

How do these feelings develop?

These feelings grow as a result of the environment we notice around ourselves when growing up. When we see someone happy in others’ happiness, we unconsciously and instinctively notice what other people are paying attention to and become happy as well. On the other hand, growing up in an environment of jealousy and vindictiveness can unknowingly harm our future relationships. Moreover, such environment can make our relationships sour.

Psychologists suggest this phenomenon is the same as mentalizing or mind-reading. In this process, we notice the people and environment around us and try to make sense of their actions by putting them in the light of their situations. Subsequently, we develop a sense of doing a particular task in a way that even we are not aware of. Social cognition thus helps us to form habits (conscious or unconscious) by noticing and analyzing the people around us. 

Interactions in a Social Environment
Everyday Interactions in a Social Environment; Image Credit: https://bit.ly/3QaKzn7

What is the implicit and explicit value of Social Cognition in Youth Development?

  • As an impact of social cognition in everyday life, we mimic the behavior we are accustomed to seeing. Thus, it is extremely crucial to have a positive environment around us so as to simulate positive development in youth through social cognition.
  • Mentalizing: Social Cognition helps to predict what others will do in a particular situation. This helps us to coordinate with them.
  • Moreover, the people we are tracking could be keeping track of us. This induces them to change their actions in response of our observation.
  • Informative Reactions: Through Social cognition, one can make sense of others’ reactions by barely noticing their actions. We can predict future actions or analyze past actions of any individual or group of individuals.
  • Develops Ideology or Thought process: Every socialist, fascist, capitalist, or communist has ever grown by noticing and following the persons or the predecessors they admire. Hence, social surroundings play a key role in shaping youth’s ideology.

This makes the impact of social cognition in youth development paramount.

What will happen in the case of neglect of cognitive factors during the process of growth?

  • Early abusive or neglectful behaviour in a person’s social environment put youths at a greater risk of experiencing mental health problems in the future.
  • A brain that has adapted to threatening situations may not function well in a normal or healthy environment.
  • Negative Social Cognition may deprive the youth of the adaptation to basic stressful changes in one’s life. For instance, shifting to a new city or college can feel more daunting for them when compared to their peers.
  • Neglect on the cognitive environment makes it harder to negotiate new situations and trust new people. In such cases, missing positive social cues is natural.
  • Negative memories become more salient and prominent than positive ones which hamper the process of development of a young mind.

Things to be done in order to facilitate positive growth in youth through social cognition:

Aristotle once said, we are what we repeatedly do. This is why we need to focus on our cognitive growth on a daily basis.

  • Avoid toxic environment: Any toxic relationship be it with family, friends, or nemesis, is inadvertently harmful to our mental and social development.
  • Develop positive social roles in your social circle. Employ the positive faces of social cognition in youth development.
  • Filter out information that may hamper your growth and development.
  • Be open to new perspectives and ideas and avoid having any set prejudices. Remember to consider before rejecting.
  • Learn to differentiate introversion from social anxiety and isolation. While the former is healthy, the latter is self-deprecating. Identify the fine line between them.
  • Be critical of blind devotion and hero-worship, 2 great minds are far more than just 2 like minds.
Social Cognition through Social Interactions and Friendships
Friendship: Social Interaction, Image Courtesy:https://bit.ly/3zs09ER


Paulo Coelho rightly remarked, when something evolves, everything around that thing evolves as well.

We need to understand that we form a part of our and someone else’s social environment, so it is consequential for us to make our presence for everyone non-toxic and empowering. It is equally important to see behavior that we find challenging in a different light; a person may be doing their best to survive with brain adaptations from the past. 

A youth’s brain has the capacity to contrive to adapt and for this to happen we need to build and maintain trusted relationships. Managing everyday stresses and preventing new ones from happening is also important. We need to encourage the people around us to try again and believe that things would be different this time. In this way, social cognition helps a young mind to cooperate, coordinate, manipulate or adapt to a given situation intelligently, in turn fostering healthy growth and development.






Tags: Mental Health, Personality Development, Psychology, Youth Development, youth mental health,

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