Nature and limits of human cognitive abilities and social capital Part of 2022 report "Exploring the limits of social capital"

Another important category of factors that limit social capital is the nature and limits of human cognitive abilities. The human brain is an amazing organic supercomputer, but it is overwhelmingly underpowered considering the amount of information it must receive and process to find meaning and make decisions in a fast-paced world. There is just too much information. There is too much to read, see, hear, taste, smell, and touch, so we have no choice but to filter out almost all of it. We struggle to find meaning from the tiny amount of retained information. Thus, we tend to fill the gaps to make some sense of them in order to make decisions. With limited information and understanding, we jump to conclusions else be paralysed by uncertainty. We remember what we can for future reference, but there is too much information. Therefore, we tend to remember generalisations that often reinforce errors. There are three broad categories of factors related to human cognition that impact social capital; 1) memory and mental models, 2) capacity to understand others, and 3) cognitive biases. The following sections will discuss each of these in more detail, although it must be acknowledged that more research is required to understand the impacts of these factors on social capital.

Citing this article

This report was prepared for the Institute for Social Capital. You should reference this work as:

Claridge, T., 2022. Exploring the limits of social capital: Can social capital be continually improved or is there a maximum?. Report, Institute for Social Capital, Dunedin, New Zealand.

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