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Social Cognition

Teun van Dijk views discourses, or ideologies, in explicitly cognitive terms.  According to van Dijk, textual structure and social structure are mediated by social cognition, which is defined as ‘the system of mental representations and processes of group members' (1995: 18).  Indeed, van Dijk (1993: 280) believes that it is theoretically essential for microlevel notions such as text and macrolevel notions such as social relations to be mediated by social cognition.  For van Dijk, to explain how texts can be socially constructive presupposes an account that relates textual structures to social cognition, and social cognition to social structures (ibid.).  

Social cognitions exist as part of semantic, as opposed to episodic, memory.  Although embodied in the minds of individuals, social cognitions are semantic in so far as 'they are shared and presupposed by group members' (van Dijk 1993: 257).   Crucially, these cognitive structures are largely acquired, used and changed through discourse (van Dijk 1990: 165).