ABSTRACT

Social cognition is concerned with 'how children conceptualise other people and how they come to understand the thoughts, emotions, intentions, and viewpoints of others' (Shantz, 1975: 258). Social cognitive processes enable children to predict the behaviour of others, control their own behaviour, and consequently attempt to regulate their social interactions (Slomkowski and Dunn, 1996). In other words, children's social behaviour is mediated by their social cognitive processes and, although these processes are far from complete in the explanation they provide for social behaviour, the basis for an individual's actions cannot be fully understood without taking them into account. A simple example will make this point clearer: if a child is tripped by another child in a school playground, the response that will follow is likely to depend on whether the act is interpreted as accidental or deliberately aggressive.