Social cognition: it's not just what you think

Mon, Aug 21, 2017

Bob Dylan was right when he wrote the times they are a changing.

But how we experience those times also changes during our lifetimes, according to Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) psychology instructor Dr. Daniel Bernstein.

It’s known as social cognition—how we think in social situations—and Bernstein shares its secrets at the next installment of the KPU Science World Speaker series on Sept. 25 with a talk aptly titled I knew it and so did you! Social cognition across the lifespan.

“We hope to provide one of the first comprehensive pictures of social cognition across the lifespan,” said Bernstein. “Our research has the potential to make valuable contributions to the fields of developmental and cognitive psychology in Canada.”

So far, more than 400 participants from the university and the larger community have participated in Bernstein’s four-year longitudinal study, which is currently in its third year. The study specifically focuses on perspective-taking along with judgment, decision-making, and other cognitive phenomena in people ages three to 99.

Bernstein’s work will provide other researchers with the tasks and methods necessary to measure fascinating social cognitive phenomena in people of all ages as well as assist psychologists wishing to study social cognition across the lifespan.

The findings of the research can and should translate into greater societal benefits through the concept of knowledge mobilization, or the transformation of data into information useful to society.

“As we collect more data, we can offer the community more insights into how thinking changes with age,” explains Bernstein. “As a specific example, we can explain common perspective-taking mistakes and potential ways to avoid them, which could improve social interactions and help people avoid some of the consequences of mistakes.”

Another benefit of the study, says Bernstein, is that it exposes students to real-world psychological research: “One of our project mandates is the training of future psychologists through research assistantships.  Ultimately, we hope that by sharing our research with a wider audience, we can benefit students, the university, the community, and society as a whole.  

I knew it and so did you! Social cognition across the lifespan takes place Monday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. at Science World Vancouver. Doors open early at 6 p.m. for a set of interactive, hands-on activities and scientific demonstrations. The event is free but registration is requested. To register and learn more, visit

This speaker series is a partnership between KPU and Science World that supports the expansion of science in our communities. This free public series works to engage, entertain and educate guests with fascinating insights into the world of science.

Story by communications team

For more KPU news: