How a stroke can affect social cognition

The effects of a stroke can vary widely. For some, a stroke can affect social cognition and social behavior. A study from 2019 found that participants who suffered from a stroke 3-4 years before the study performed significantly worse on emotion recognition and behavior regulation tests than control subjects. The research also showed correlations between social cognition skills and other skills that a stroke can impact, such as visual perception, language, processing speed, and memory.

Although full recovery may not be possible, rehabilitation may help patients improve or restore many functions after a stroke. This is why post-stroke therapies are so vital. Social cognition can be tested in the early stages after a stroke, so testing for social cognition impairments and addressing them in the early stages is an important step in recovery.

What is social cognition? 

Social cognition is a cognitive function centered around how people process, store, and apply information surrounding other people. In order to live our daily lives, we often need to perceive other people, interact with them, store interactions in our memory. We also need to store information about how we want to act and react in social situations. Most people use social cognition daily, because we rely on it for all social interaction. 

Why is social cognition important? 

Many daily functions require the use of social cognition. Having conversations with friends, understanding and participating in a meeting at work, and even simple actions like saying “excuse me” when you accidental bump into someone, all require social cognition. 

Social cognition doesn’t only involve speaking with others. Reading facial expressions and body language, and being in control one’s own facial expressions and body language are part of social cognition as well. Social cognition skills allow us to have appropriate conversations, know when to speak and when it might be better not to. Social cognition plays a key role in how we think about and interact with others and the world around us.

A stroke can impact social cognition. However, there are ways to work on these skills and potentially regain some of the patient’s previous social cognition.

How to work on social cognition for stroke patients

Cognitive exercises

Using cognitive exercises such as HappyNeuron Pro worksheets can exercise these social cognitive skills. Exercises that focus on language-emotion association and reading facial expressions can help the brain to heal and help patients rebuild some of their previous social cognitive skills.

Cognitive exercises that are recommended for stroke patients also include those that work on language, memory, attention, and others depending on the specific patient’s needs. Working on these skills in combination with social cognition can lead to a more effective, holistic recovery.

Providing social support

One study showed that stroke patients having emotional and social support typically led to better outcomes on cognitive testing 6 months after a stroke. Having strong social ties through family and friends can promote cognitive functioning and resilience, meaning that patients with this kind of support may recover faster and have less long-term effects after a stroke.

If you are in touch with members of the patient’s family or social circle, you can encourage them to provide intentional social support during the recovery process.

Group therapy

Bridging group therapy can help patients apply the social cognitive skills they’ve been working on to real life situations. Practicing a skill and applying it are separate objectives, and patients may need extra help utilizing the skills they’ve been working on in daily life. Working on applying these skills within a group provides a supportive environment for patients. In this setting, they can feel safe to make mistakes, ask questions, and get feedback that will help them in their daily lives. These groups are very helpful in person, but can be adapted for telehealth if needed.

Social media

Using social media is a great way for patients to interact with others, without the pressure of being in-person. Encouraging patients to join a group of others who have been through similar experiences allows them to practice their social cognition. 

Social media can provide a buffer between the patient and the outside world. When using social media, you are able to take ample time to think before speaking. And if the patient doesn’t want to communicate, they can simply observe what other people are discussing. This can also provide a sense of community, even if they aren’t ready to participate.


A stroke can affect social cognition, which is a group of cognitive skills that we use in our day-to-day lives. If your patient is recovering from a stroke, utilizing cognitive exercises, encouraging social support, providing group therapy, and using social media may help them to regain social cognition skills.

Aly Castle

Aly is HappyNeuron Pro’s Content Specialist. She is passionate about mental health and well-being and loves utilizing her design background to share important cognitive information clearly and understandably.

Related Content in Cognitive Rehabilitation,Group Therapy,Misc,Neuroscience,Occupational Therapy,Psychology,Social Cognition,Speech and Language Pathology,Stroke

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