Skip top navigation and go to page content
National Science Foundation
People & Society
next page People & Society Home
next page More Research Overviews

Neural-cognitive processes, behaviors, context and social interactions are all dimensions of children's growth and development. Peer relationships and informal learning constitute one research area of intense interest to scientists.
Credit: Microsoft

How Do People Develop as Social Beings?
How do people develop as individuals and as social beings? How do families affect individuals? Why do families take many forms?

Studying these topics scientifically yields important insights into what it means to be human and to be in society with others. Social scientists study the relationships among processes in our brains and our behavior and cognition; how children and teenagers learn in school and in other places; the role of family and friend relationships, status and other elements in personal and social development; how we perceive through our senses, put information together and form beliefs; and how we form memories and how those memories can change.

Individual growth and social development constitute pieces of the same puzzle. Scientists examine social and developmental issues over the course of a life—from infant behavior to schoolchildren’s learning processes to adult attitudes and responses to situations.

At various stages of life, different social groups become important: family, peers, schools, businesses and so on. People make choices about groups—to join a gang or not, for example. Scientists study how groups influence individuals and how individuals choose their affiliations.

How Do People Make Decisions? [Next]