What Is Cognitive and Intrapersonal Social Psychology?


Martha Robinson

Cognitive and Intrapersonal Social Psychology

Have you ever wondered why people think and behave the way they do? How they form judgments, make decisions, and interact with others?

If so, you’re not alone! These questions lie at the heart of social psychology. In this article, we will explore two important branches of social psychology – cognitive and intrapersonal.

The Cognitive Perspective

The cognitive perspective in social psychology focuses on how individuals perceive, process, and interpret information about themselves, others, and their social environment. It examines the mental processes that underlie social behavior. Let’s delve into some key concepts within this fascinating field.


Schemas are mental frameworks or structures that help us organize and interpret information. They represent our knowledge about different concepts or categories. For example, we might have a schema for “friend,” which includes characteristics such as trustworthiness and supportiveness.

These schemas influence how we perceive people and events. They help us make sense of new situations by allowing us to quickly categorize information based on our existing knowledge. However, schemas can also lead to biases and stereotypes if they are based on limited or inaccurate information.

Attribution Theory

Attribution theory focuses on how people explain the causes of behavior. According to this theory, individuals are motivated to understand why others behave the way they do. We often attribute behavior to either internal factors (such as personality traits) or external factors (such as situational factors).

For example, if someone fails an exam, we might attribute their failure to their lack of intelligence (internal attribution) or attribute it to the difficulty of the exam (external attribution). Attribution theory helps us understand how we make judgments about others’ behavior.

Intrapersonal Social Psychology

Intrapersonal social psychology refers to the study of how individuals perceive, evaluate, and influence themselves. It explores the internal processes that shape our thoughts, emotions, and actions in a social context. Let’s explore some important topics within this field.


Self-perception theory suggests that we learn about ourselves by observing our own behavior. Rather than having a fixed self-concept, we infer our attitudes and beliefs based on our actions. For example, if you frequently volunteer at a local shelter, you may come to see yourself as a caring and compassionate person.

This theory highlights the importance of self-observation in shaping our self-identity. It also emphasizes that our behavior can influence our attitudes and beliefs.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance refers to the discomfort we feel when we hold conflicting beliefs or attitudes. According to this theory, we are motivated to reduce this dissonance by changing our beliefs or behaviors.

For example, if someone smokes despite knowing its harmful effects on health, they may experience cognitive dissonance. To resolve this discomfort, they may either quit smoking or convince themselves that smoking isn’t as harmful as it is commonly believed.

Understanding cognitive dissonance helps us comprehend why people sometimes engage in behaviors that contradict their beliefs.


In summary, cognitive and intrapersonal social psychology provide valuable insights into how individuals think about themselves and others within a social context. The cognitive perspective focuses on mental processes such as perception and attribution. On the other hand, intrapersonal social psychology explores self-perception and cognitive dissonance.

By studying these branches of social psychology, we gain a deeper understanding of human behavior and the complex interplay between cognition and social interactions. So next time you find yourself pondering over why people act the way they do, remember that social psychology has some fascinating answers to offer!

  • Schemas: Mental frameworks that help us organize and interpret information.
  • Attribution Theory: Explains how we explain the causes of behavior.
  • Self-Perception: Learning about ourselves by observing our own behavior.
  • Cognitive Dissonance: The discomfort we feel when holding conflicting beliefs or attitudes.