Topic Editor: Philip David Zelazo, PhD, University of Minnesota, USA
Social cognition refers to the awareness of one’s own and other people’s mental states (i.e., acquiring a theory of mind), including emotions, motives, desires and feelings. Socio-cognitive skills, such as the ability to understand, describe and predict people’s mental states, allow children to develop a strong social cognition. Developing social and cognitive awareness is especially important during infancy to prepare children to interact properly with the social world prior to school entry. For example, it is through group activities that children gradually learn the importance of sharing. This crucial ability originates from children’s understanding that other children may have a desire to play with the same toys.
Along the same line, recent evidence indicates that children’s socio-cognitive skills may have a direct impact on the quality of their relationships and school success. Children with a more developed social cognition tend to be better communicators, socially competent, popular with peers, happier at school, and academically more advanced. In contrast, those with poor social cognition are more likely to have difficulty making the transition to school, to react more violently in face of harsh parenting, and to experience difficulties in school that may be misread as conduct problems (e.g., lacking respect towards a teacher).
Lastly, it is important to foster early children’s socio-cognitive skills because they have a bigger impact on children’s social and academic development when acquired at a young age.