Term of Art: Cognitive Theory

“Cognitive Theory: A major cluster of theories in social psychology, which focus upon the links between mental processes (such as perception, memory, attitudes, or decision making), and social behavior. At a general level such theories are opposed to behaviorism, and suggest that human beings are active in selecting stimuli, constructing meanings, and making sense of their worlds. There are many branches of cognitive theory, including Fritz Heider’s cognitive balance theory, Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory, George Kelly’s personal construct theory, and attribution theory. (See J.R. Eiser, Cognitive Social Psychology, 1980).”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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