The term Social Thinking was coined by Michelle Garcia Winner in the late 1990s. this term has revolutionized the teaching of social skills, since true social skills appear to evolve from one’s THINKING about how one wants to be PERCEIVED by others. So, the decision to use discrete social skills (e.g. standing casually versus formally etc.) are not based on MEMORIZING specific social rules (as often taught in our social skills groups), but instead are based on a social DECISION- MAKING tree of thought that involves dynamic and synergistic PROCESSING.
Winner has suggested we could better understand multidimensional social learning needs by exploring the many different aspects of social INFORMATION and related RESPONSES that are expected in order for us to be considered as having “good social skills”.
The ability to think socially is required PRIOR to the production of social skills. As children age up, successful social thinkers are able to consider the points of view, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, prior knowledge and INTENTIONS of others (this is often called perspective-taking). For most people, this is an intuitive process whereby we DETERMINE the meaning behind the message and how to RESPOND within milliseconds.
Social Thinking occurs everywhere, when we talk, share space, walk down the street, even when we read a novel and relate to our pets. It is an intelligence that integrates information across home, work and community settings. Social Thinking also demonstrates the link between one’s social learning abilities and his or her related ability (or disability) when processing and responding to school curriculum based in the use of the social mind (e.g., reading comprehension of literature, some aspects of written expression, etc.).
Winner's ideas related to teaching social thinking, which are all based on the research, are the conceptual foundation for developing treatments for those with social challenges. Winner and colleagues argue that individuals who share a diagnostic label (e.g., ASPERGER SYNDROME) nonetheless exhibit extremely different social learning traits, or social mind profiles, and should have unique treatment trajectories, such as those based ON EVIDENCED- BASED COGNITIVE-BEHAVIORAL (CBT).
For the adolescent with advanced cognitive and language skills, a discussion about the “why” underlying the production of a skill becomes crucial, a number of teaching scaffolds have been developed to encourage students to explore how “we all get along” with one another, even when relating to someone we do not know well. Individuals are taught that thinking about the social world can in turn help him/her to adapt behaviors in an increasingly proficient manner.
While Social Thinking is relatively new in the field of autism and special education, it is closely linked with other types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approaches such as Social Stories, (Gray) Hidden Curriculum, ]5-point scale, (Dunn) ]and others. The foundation of Social Thinking is weighted heavily in well-known issues in this population such as executive functioning, central coherence issues, and perspective taking, only a handful of research has been completed to date.