You may have heard the word schema as it relates to coding, where it refers to how a database is structured. While a schema in psychology still refers to how information is organized, it focuses on how the human mind does it.
What Is a Schema in Psychology?
Aschemais a cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. We use schemas because they allow us to take shortcuts in interpreting the vast amount of information that is available in our environment.
However, these mental frameworks also cause us to exclude pertinent information to focus instead only on things that confirm our pre-existing beliefs and ideas. Schemas can contribute to stereotypes and make it difficult to retain new information that does not conform to our established ideas about the world.
History of Schemas
The use of schemas as a basic concept was first used by a British psychologist named Frederic Bartlett as part of his learning theory. Bartlett's theory suggested that our understanding of the world is formed by a network of abstract mental structures.
TheoristJean Piagetintroduced the term schema, and its use was popularized through his work. According to his theory of cognitive development, children go through a series of stages of intellectual growth.
InPiaget's theory, a schema is both the category of knowledge as well as the process of acquiring that knowledge. He believed that people are constantly adapting to the environment as they take in new information and learn new things.
As experiences happen and new information is presented, new schemas are developed and old schemas are changed or modified.
For example, a young child may first develop a schema for a horse. She knows that a horse is large, has hair, four legs, and a tail. When the little girl encounters a cow for the first time, she might initially call it a horse.
After all, it fits in with her schema for the characteristics of a horse; it is a large animal that has hair, four legs, and a tail. Once she is told that this is a different animal called a cow, she will modify her existing schema for a horse and create a new schema for a cow.
Now, let's imagine that this girl encounters a miniature horse for the first time and mistakenly identifies it as a dog.
Her parents explain to her that the animal is actually a very small type of horse, so the little girl must at this time modify her existing schema for horses. She now realizes that while some horses are very large animals, others can be very small. Through her new experiences, her existing schemas are modified and new information is learned.
Types of Schemas
While Piaget focused on childhood development, schemas are something that all people possess and continue to form and change throughout life. Object schemas are just one type of schema that focuses on what an inanimate object is and how it works.
For example, most people in industrialized nations have a schema for what a car is. Your overall schema for a car might include subcategories for different types of automobiles such as a compact car, sedan, or sports car.
What are the four types of schemas? They include:
- Person schemas are focused on specific individuals. For example, your schema for your friend might include information about her appearance, her behaviors, her personality, and her preferences.
- Social schemas include general knowledge about how people behave in certain social situations.
- Self-schemas are focused on your knowledge about yourself. This can include both what you know about your current self as well as ideas about your idealized or future self.
- Event schemas are focused on patterns of behavior that should be followed for certain events. This acts much like a script informing you of what you should do, how you should act, and what you should say in a particular situation.
How Schemas Change
The processes through which schemas are adjusted or changed are known as assimilation and accommodation.
- Inassimilation, new information is incorporated into pre-existing schemas.
- Inaccommodation, existing schemas might be altered or new schemas might be formed as a person learns new information and has new experiences.
Schemas tend to be easier to change during childhood but can become increasingly rigid and difficult to modify as people grow older. Schemas will often persist even when people are presented with evidence that contradicts their beliefs.
In many cases, people will only begin to slowly change their schemas when inundated with a continual barrage of evidence pointing to the need to modify it.
How Schemas Affect Learning
Schemas also play a role in education and the learning process. For example:
- Schemas influence what we pay attention to. People are more likely to pay attention to things that fit in with their current schemas.
- Schemas also impact how quickly people learn. People also learn information more readily when it fits in with the existing schemas.
- Schemas help simplify the world. Schemas can often make it easier for people to learn about the world around them. New information could be classified and categorized by comparing new experiences to existing schemas.
- Schemas allow us to think quickly. Even under conditions when things are rapidly changing our new information is coming in quickly, people do not usually have to spend a great deal of time interpreting it. Because of the existing schemas, people are able to assimilate this new information quickly and automatically.
- Schemas can also change how we interpret incoming information. When learning new information that does not fit with existing schemas, people sometimes distort or alter the new information to make it fit with what they already know.
- Schemas can also be remarkably difficult to change. People often cling to their existing schemas even in the face of contradictory information.
Challenges of Schemas
While the use of schemas to learn, in most situations, occurs automatically or with little effort, sometimes an existing schema can hinder the learning of new information.
Prejudiceis one example of a schema that prevents people from seeing the world as it is and inhibits them from taking in new information.
By holding certain beliefs about a particular group of people, this existing schema may cause people to interpret situations incorrectly. When an event happens that challenges these existing beliefs, people may come up with alternative explanations that uphold and support their existing schema instead of adapting or changing their beliefs.
Resistance to Change
Consider how this might work for gender expectations and stereotypes. Everyone has a schema for what is considered masculine and feminine in their culture. Such schemas can also lead to stereotypes about how we expect men and women to behave and the roles we expect them to fill.
In one interesting study, researchers showed children images that were either consistent with gender expectations (such as a man working on a car and woman washing dishes) while others saw images that were inconsistent with gender stereotypes (a man washing dishes and a woman fixing a car).
When later asked to remember what they had seen in the images, children who held very stereotypical views of gender were more likely to change the gender of the people they saw in the gender-inconsistent images. For example, if they saw an image of a man washing dishes, they were more likely to remember it as an image of a woman washing dishes.
Gender Schema Theory and Roles in Culture
A Word From Verywell
Piaget's theory of cognitive development provided an important dimension to our understanding of how children develop and learn. Though the processes of adaptation, accommodation, and equilibration, we build, change, and grow our schemas which provide a framework for our understanding of the world around us.
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Baldwin MW. Psychological bulletin. American Psychological Association. 1992. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.112.3.461
Padesky CA. Schema change processes in cognitive therapy. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. 1994;1:267–278. doi:10.1002/cpp.5640010502
Aosved AC, Long PJ, Voller EK. Measuring sexism, racism, sexual prejudice, ageism, classism, and religious intolerance: The Intolerant Schema Measure. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 2009;39(10):2321-2354. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2009.00528.x
- Levine, LE & Munsch, J. Child Development. Los Angeles: Sage; 2014.
- Lindon, J & Brodie, K. Understanding Child Development 0-8 Years, 4th Edition: Linking Theory and Practice. London: Hodder Education; 2016.
By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
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Examples of schemata include rubrics, perceived social roles, stereotypes, and worldviews. The concept of schema was first introduced into psychology by British psychologist Frederic Bartlett in Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology (1932).What is the best example of schema? ›
For example, when a child is young, they may develop a schema for a dog. They know a dog walks on four legs, is hairy, and has a tail. When the child goes to the zoo for the first time and sees a tiger, they may initially think the tiger is a dog as well.What are the 3 types of schema theory? ›
2.2. 2 Three Types of Schema Schema can be classified into three types: linguistic schema, content schema and formal schema (Carrell, 1984).What are the 5 schemas? ›
- Emotional Deprivation.
- Social Isolation/Alienation.
A few examples of self-schemas are: exciting or dull; quiet or loud; healthy or sickly; athletic or nonathletic; lazy or active; and geek or jock. If a person has a schema for "geek or jock," for example, he might think of himself as a bit of a computer geek and would possess a lot of information about that trait.What is an example of event schema? ›
Event schemas let you know what you should do in a certain situation. For example, when a fire alarm goes off, you should leave the building. This might seem like common sense, but at one point, you didn't know what such a signal meant. You learned through experience and retained the information through schema.What are the 9 schemas? ›
There are nine most common play schemas: Connection, Enclosure, Enveloping, Orientation, Positioning, Rotation, Trajectory, Transforming, and Transporting.What are behavioral schemas? ›
What is a Schema? Schemas are patterns of repeated behaviour that allow children to explore and develop their play through their thoughts and ideas. As an adult, you can learn about your children's interests by observing their play. By stepping back and watching, you may notice how apparent some of these schemas are.What are the four types of schema? ›
- Role schema.
- Object schema.
- Event schema.
For example, when John understands that leaves change color in the fall, he has a schema about leaves and fall. Learning involves forming schemata. When John learns that white and red make pink, or that houses have windows and doors and roofs, he is forming schemata. But learning also involves revising our schemata.
Description. Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development includes discussion of cognitive schemas, or mental representations. As infants, we are born with certain innate schemas, such as crying and sucking. As we encounter things in our environment, we develop additional schemas, such as babbling, crawling, etc.What is an example of Piaget's schema? ›
For example, a child may have a schema about a type of animal, such as a dog. If the child's sole experience has been with small dogs, a child might believe that all dogs are small, furry, and have four legs.What are social schemas? ›
a cognitive structure of organized information, or representations, about social norms and collective patterns of behavior within society.What are the characteristics of schema? ›
A schema is an organized unit of knowledge for a subject or event. It is based on past experience and is accessed to guide current understanding or action. Characteristics: Schemas are dynamic – they develop and change based on new information and experiences and thereby support the notion of plasticity in development.What are the 12 schemas? ›
- Emotional Deprivation: The belief and expectation that your primary needs will never be met. ...
- Abandonment: ...
- Mistrust/Abuse: ...
- Defectiveness: ...
- Vulnerability: ...
- Dependence/Incompetence: ...
- Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self: ...
Types of Early Maladaptive Schemas
mistrust/abuse. emotional deprivation. defectiveness/shame. social isolation/alienation.
In computer programming, a schema (pronounced SKEE-mah) is the organization or structure for a database, while in artificial intelligence (AI) a schema is a formal expression of an inference rule. For the former, the activity of data modeling leads to a schema.What is a negative schema? ›
Negative information we hold about ourselves based on negative past experiences that can lead to cognitive biases.Why do we use schemas? ›
Schemas help us process information quickly and economically and facilitate memory recall. We are more likely to remember details that are consistent with our schema than those that are inconsistent.What is self schema in psychology? ›
The term self-schema refers to the beliefs and thoughts people have about themselves in order to organize information about the self. Self-schemas are generalizations about the self that are abstracted from past experiences and acting in a present situation.
Schemas are described as patterns of repeated behaviour which allow children to explore and express developing ideas and thoughts through their play and exploration. The repetitive actions of schematic play allow children to construct meaning in what they are doing.How are schemas formed? ›
Schemas are developed based on information provided by life experiences and are then stored in memory. Our brains create and use schemas as a short cut to make future encounters with similar situations easier to navigate.What is schema and types of schema? ›
Schema is the overall description of the database. The basic structure of how the data will be stored in the database is called schema. Schema is of three types: Logical Schema, Physical Schema and view Schema.How many schema modes are there? ›
Schema modes are organized into four categories: child modes, coping modes, parent modes, and the Healthy Adult mode. Modes can be adaptive (the Healthy Adult and the Happy Child mode) or maladaptive (every other mode).What are maladaptive schemas in psychology? ›
An early maladaptive schema is a pervasive self-defeating or dysfunctional theme or pattern of memories, emotions, and physical sensations, developed during childhood or adolescence and elaborated throughout one's lifetime, that often has the form of a belief about the self or the world.What is Piaget's schema theory? ›
Piaget suggested that we understand the world around us by using schemas. A schema is a pattern of learning, linking perceptions, ideas and actions to make sense of the world. Piaget described it simply as the “way we see the world”.Which of the following schema is mostly used? ›
#1) Star Schema
This is the simplest and most effective schema in a data warehouse. A fact table in the center surrounded by multiple dimension tables resembles a star in the Star Schema model.
schema chart. scheme. step-by-step diagram. structural outline.How do you explain schema to students? ›
Schema is your background knowledge; it's what you already know before you even pick up the book. Its major “ingredients” are your memories, the books you've read, the places you've been, the movies you've watched, the vocabulary you know, etc. Your schema, or background knowledge, is highly fueled by your interests.
A schema is a pattern of repeated actions, which will later develop into learnt concepts. Schema's use the 'trial and error' method of learning, and are adopted by children as an effort to make sense of the world around them.What are the principles of schema theory? ›
Here are some basic principles of schema theory: Schemata are abstract mental structures. People build on these structures to understand the world. People use schemata to organize current knowledge and provide a framework for future understanding.What are the 4 types of cognitive schemata? ›
Constructivism is the idea that we organize and interpret experience by applying cognitive structures called cognitive schemata. There are four types of these schemata, prototypes, personal construct, stereotypes, and scripts which we use to make sense of phenomena.What is an example of assimilation and accommodation? ›
When the child encounters a horse, they might assimilate this information and immediately call the animal a dog. The process of accommodation then allows the child to adapt the existing schema to incorporate the knowledge that some four-legged animals are horses.What is an example of accommodation? ›
Example 2: One classic example of accommodation involves a child who understands that a four-legged creature is called a dog. Then, the child encounters a cat and refers to it as a dog until corrected by a parent. After being corrected, the child can distinguish between a dog and a cat.What is an example of schema in education? ›
For example, when John understands that leaves change color in the fall, he has a schema about leaves and fall. Learning involves forming schemata. When John learns that white and red make pink, or that houses have windows and doors and roofs, he is forming schemata. But learning also involves revising our schemata.What is schema explain with the help of suitable example? ›
Schema is a physical representation of data which is present in the database management system. In simple words we can call a schema the structure of any database. It defines how the data was stored in a database and also shows the relationship among those data, but it does not show the data present in those tables.What is an example of schema in memory? ›
A schema can be discrete and specific, or sequential and elaborate. For example, a schema may be as specific as recognizing a dog, or as elaborate as categorizing different types of dogs. For example, when a parent reads to a child about dogs, the child constructs a schema about dogs.What is an example of Piaget's schema? ›
For example, a child may have a schema about a type of animal, such as a dog. If the child's sole experience has been with small dogs, a child might believe that all dogs are small, furry, and have four legs.How many schemas are there? ›
They are constantly changing and developing. There are nine most common play schemas: Connection, Enclosure, Enveloping, Orientation, Positioning, Rotation, Trajectory, Transforming, and Transporting.
When the child encounters a horse, they might assimilate this information and immediately call the animal a dog. The process of accommodation then allows the child to adapt the existing schema to incorporate the knowledge that some four-legged animals are horses.What is schema in simple words? ›
A schema in psychology and other social sciences describes a mental concept. It provides information to an individual about what to expect from diverse experiences and circumstances. These schemas are developed and based on life experiences and provide a guide to one's cognitive processes and behavior.What is a positive schema? ›
Positive schemas. Lockwood and Perris (2012) introduced the concept of early adaptive schemas (EAS) as the. positive counterpart of an EMS. Like EMS, EAS consist of persistent patterns of information. processing, thoughts, emotions, memories, and attention preferences.What are the 5 schema domains? ›
The Schema Domains define 5 broad categories of emotional needs of a child (connection, mutuality, reciprocity, flow and autonomy).What is an example of a maladaptive schema? ›
Types of Early Maladaptive Schemas
mistrust/abuse. emotional deprivation. defectiveness/shame. social isolation/alienation.
- Emotional Deprivation.
- Social Isolation.
- Vulnerability to Harm or Illness.
- Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self.
The purpose of a schema is to define and describe a class of XML documents by using these constructs to constrain and document the meaning, usage and relationships of their constituent parts: datatypes, elements and their content, attributes and their values, entities and their contents and notations.What is physical and logical schema? ›
A physical schema can be defined as the design of a database at its physical level. In this level, it is expressed how data is stored in blocks of storage. A logical schema can be defined as the design of the database at its logical level.How schemas are formed? ›
In Piaget's epistemology, cognitive schemas are acquired and formed through a process of internalization conceived of as a functional incorporation of the regular structure of actions into the memory (Piaget 1954). Schemas are higher-level cognitive units that are acquired through slow learning.