From Individual to Social Cognition

Chairs & Co-Chairs

David Chavalarias
Jean-Philippe Cointet


Cognition is information processing, understood in a wide sense, that is, including all related aspects such as, for instance, interpretation processes. A cognitive system is thus an information processing system. It can be embedded in a single individual or distributed over a large number of individuals. We would talk of individual cognition or social cognition. Social cogition is a cognitive process distributed over all members of a society, interacting within a social network. Individual cognition as well might be considered as distributed cognition over a neural network.

In social networks, some information reaches some agents, then its content is processed by the social network, producing other pieces of information and other social links following series of interactions. This process of social cognition could thus lead to a transformation of the social network.

At individual and collective levels alike, cognitive processes are obeying strong constraints: individuals cannot achieve anything outside of what they they know how to do, themselves or in interaction with others; nothing can be anticipated outside of what they can predict alone or by interacting with others. Both the network structure and the nature of interactions are as such strong constraints on cognitive processes.

New protocols appear which make it possible to describe or quantify these constraints at the infra-individual, individual and collective levels, thus suggesting, in turn, new models. The quick migration of social interactions towards digital media enables the massive collection of data on social cognition, from the viewpoint of both its processes (spatial structure of interactions, temporal distributions, etc.) and its products (online documents, user-focused data, etc.). The coexitence of these two phenomena opens today new perspectives for the study of individual and social cognition on the basis of benchmarking models with empirical data. This ought to be a major ambition for a better understanding of the evolution of our societies.