Schema theory

Last update by jette on 03/19/2015
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What is the purpose of schemas?

Schemas organise knowledge and help us make sense of the world and make it more predictable.
Cognitive schemas contribute to quick, automatic, unconscious and effortless information processing (people seen as cogntive misers).

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  • jette
    Answered in Schema theory
    How does schema processing affect social cognition?
    Cognitive schemas lead to quick and automatic impression formation of people and situations (social cognition) based on past experiences ("everyday theorists").
  • jette
    Answered in Schema theory
    Darley and Gross (1983) experiment on role of schemas in social cogntion
    Participants saw videos of the same girl. Group 1 saw a video with the girl playing in a rich neigbourhood. Group 2 saw her playing in a poor neighbourhood. Finally, participants saw a third video where the girl seemed to take an intelligence test. When asked about how the girl would do in the future, participants who had watched the girl in the poor environment said she would not do so well; participants who had watched the girl in a rich environment first said she would do well in the future.
    The results indicate that participants used pre-stored schema about what it means to be poor and rich to form an impression of the future of the girl.
  • jette
    Answered in Schema theory
    How does schema processing affect memory?
    Schemas organise knowledge in memory (LTM) and create expectations of what to expect.
    People tend to remember the meaning of something (the gist) - not the actual wording.
    If information is missing at storage or retrieval - we fill in the gaps (can lead to memory distortions).
    Memory is reconstructive - and often consistent with a person's stored schemas (Bartlett, 1932)
    People tend to ignore information that is not in line with their schemas (aschematic information) and pay attention to what is in line with their schemas (schematic information) :Confirmation bias.
  • jette
    Answered in Schema theory
    How does culture affect memory and schema processing? include Bartlett (1932) on Bantus' memory for cows.
    Bartlett (1932) people develop cultural schemas dependent on what is important to a specific culture. This influences what people are likely to remember (survival value).
    Bantus have good memory for cows. Bartlett interviewed a Scottish settler and a local Bantu herdsman from Swaziland. The Bantu man remembered exactly what cows were sold the year before and how they looked because such information is important in the Bantu culture.The Scott had to consult his records.
  • jette
    Answered in Schema theory
    Bartlett (1932)
    How does "The war of the Ghosts" illustrate cultural schemas and reconstructive memory?
    The study investigated if cultural schemas could lead to 'reconstructive memory'. An unfamiliar native American story was read to British participants and they had to reproduce it several times over a period of time. Participants remembered the main ideas but changed things in the story that was unfamiliar so that it became more in line with their own cultural schemas. Bartlett concluded that remembering is an active process: People reconstruct based on their schemas. The study confirms schema theory but methodological considerations:
    The study was performed in a laboratory and maybe somewhat artifical. Participants did not receive standardised instructions (so maybe demand characteristics?). Still, a key study in understanding the role of cultural schemas in memory processing - and a seminal study in terms of everyday memory.
  • jette
    Answered in Schema theory
    Anderson and Pichert (1978)
    Aim: investigate if schemas affect both encoding and retrieval.
    Procedure: Controlled lab exp. Participants heard a story about two boys who skipped school and spent the day in an isolated house -home of one of the boys. Some details of the house were given. Condition one heard the story from the perspective of a potential housebuyer. Condition two from the perspective of a potential burglar. Then the participants performed a distraction task for 12 minutes. Then all were asked to recall. In a second trial, half of the participants were given the opposite schema (either burglar or house buyer) and asked to recal details of the house. Half were asked to recall with the original schema.
    Results: the new schema changed recall as more details of the new schema were recalled (10%) but 7% of the original was recalled as well in the group who changed schema. Schema processing seems to affect both encoding and recall.
    Evaluation: a highly controlled lab experiments so possible to establish cause-effect relationships. Issues of ecological validity but other studies have replicates these findings so valid results.
  • jette
    Answered in Schema theory
    Strengths of schema theory
    1. Schema theory has overall been very useful in explaining cognitive processes such as perception, memory and reasoning. Schemas are useful for predicting what could be expected in certain situations.
    2. Schema theory can explain reconstructive memory (memory distortions), e.g. we do not have an exact replica of an event (or story) but fill in gaps at retrieval.
    3. schema theory can explain how we come to have clear ideas of gender roles (gender schema) and how children use this gender schema to 'gender police'
    4. Scema theory can explain how cultural schemas influence what we pay attention to, how people behave and remember, e.g. that we focus on particular things and (ignore other things) that are in line with our cultural schemas (Bartlett).
  • jette
    Answered in Schema theory
    Limitations of schema theory
    1. According to Cohen (1993) the concept of schema is too vague to be useful and it is not clear how schemas are acquired in the first place (Piaget did in fact suggest how schemas (mental representations) are acquired and changed (assimilation and accomodation) as the child interact with the world and learn (constructionist theory).
    2. Schema theory assumes that schemas schemas develop from simple networks into more complex structures but it does not explain precisely how this happens.
    3. Schema theory may focus most on inaccuracies of memory processing, which makes sense as errors in memory processing can be fatal, e.g. in eye witness testimony. However, most of the time people remember accurately even if not all details are exact copies of experience.
Schema theory
Schema theory
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