Cognition in a Social Context: A Social-Interactionist Approach to Emergent Phenomena

Madalina Vlasceanu, Karalyn Enz, Alin Coman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The formation of collective memories, emotions, and beliefs is a fundamental characteristic of human communities. These emergent outcomes are thought to be the result of a dynamical system of communicative interactions among individuals. But despite recent psychological research on collective phenomena, no programmatic framework to explore the processes involved in their formation exists. Here, we propose a social-interactionist approach that bridges cognitive and social psychology to illuminate how microlevel cognitive phenomena give rise to large-scale social outcomes. It involves first establishing the boundary conditions of cognitive phenomena, then investigating how cognition is influenced by the social context in which it is manifested, and finally studying how dyadic-level influences propagate in social networks. This approach has the potential to (a) illuminate the large-scale consequences of well-established cognitive phenomena, (b) lead to interdisciplinary dialogues between psychology and the other social sciences, and (c) be more relevant for public policy than existing approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-377
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • collective memory
  • social interactionism
  • social networks
  • socially shared retrieval-induced forgetting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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