Beyond cognitive deficits: how social class shapes social cognition

Nicholas J. Fendinger, Pia Dietze, Eric D. Knowles

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Lower social class is thought to contribute to poorer executive functioning and working memory. Nevertheless, lower social class individuals consistently outperform their higher-class counterparts on social cognitive tasks that rely on similar underlying cognitive processes (e.g., working memory and executive functioning). Why would lower social class inhibit such processes in one domain, but promote them in another? We argue that features of lower-class communities (e.g., resource scarcity) promote social cognition via cultural processes. We then argue that social cognition involves partially unique task and neural demands that are separate from nonsocial cognition. We conclude that unique task and neural demands, together with the distinctive cognitive proclivities of lower- and higher-class cultures, can explain variable associations between social class and cognitive functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)528-538
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • cognition
  • culture
  • social class
  • social neuroscience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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