Social cognition differs from general cognition in its focus on understanding, perceiving, and interpreting social information. However, we argue that the significance of domain-general processes for controlling cognition have been historically undervalued in social cognition and social research. We suggest much of social cognition can be characterised as specialized feature representations supported by domain-general cognitive control systems. To test this proposal, we develop a comprehensive working model, based on an interactive activation and competition architecture and applied to the control of action. As such, we label the model “ICON” (interactive activation and competition model for the control of action). We used the ICON model to simulate human performance across various laboratory tasks. Our simulations emphasize that many laboratory-based social tasks do not require socially-specific control systems, such as those that are argued to rely on theory-of-mind networks. Moreover, our model clarifies that perceived disruptions in social cognition, even in what appears to be disruption to the control of social cognition, can stem from deficits in social representation instead. We advocate for a “default stance” in social cognition, where control is usually general, but representation is specific. This study underscores the importance of integrating social cognition within the broader realm of domain-general control processing, offering a unified perspective on task processing.


  • social cognition, control of action, stimulus response compatibility, computational modelling, autism, autism spectrum, imitation, approach-avoid
Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 6 Feb 2024
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