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We are a worldwide social network of freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists.

This is a post of the psychology of schema, which I will define below.

Many of us may already understand this aspect of perception and thinking, but I’m posting this because it is important to be reminded of these definitions. Doing so will only help us to better understand how we comprehend, organize, and accept or reject information – an important aspect of critical thinking. I was aware that we did this, of course, but the term schema is new to me.


Having uncompromising schemata can inhibit our intellectual or moral progress, but I can’t accept that all schemata are inherently bad, or inhibitory. For example, I have a schema that tells me to be distrustful of authority – of the dangers of accepting it unquestioningly or in having any kind of blind faith in it. I think that is a good schema to have.


This is from Wikipedia. I have not yet tracked down any other sources on schema or how it shapes our beliefs and attitudes. Here is the page link, but I am including some of the highlights below.   – Dallas

 

Schema (psychology):

  • An organized pattern of thought or behavior.
  • A structured cluster of pre-conceived ideas.
  • A mental structure that represents some aspect of the world.
  • A specific knowledge structure or cognitive representation of the self.
  • A mental framework centering on a specific theme, that helps us to organize social information.
  • Structures that organize our knowledge and assumptions about something and are used for interpreting and processing information.


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Schemata influence our attention, as we are more likely to notice things that fit into our schema. If something contradicts our schema, it may be encoded or interpreted as an exception or as unique. Thus, schemata are prone to distortion. They influence what we look for in a situation. They have a tendency to remain unchanged, even in the face of contradictory information. We are inclined to place people who do not fit our schema in a "special" or "different" category, rather than to consider the possibility that our schema may be faulty. As a result of schemata, we might act in such a way that actually causes our expectations to come true.


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Schemata are an effective tool for understanding the world. Through the use of schemata, most everyday situations do not require effortful processing—automatic processing is all that is required. People can quickly organize new perceptions into schemata and act effectively without effort. For example, most people have a stairway schema and can apply it to climb staircases they've never seen before.


However, schemata can influence and hamper the uptake of new information (proactive interference), such as when existing stereotypes, giving rise to limited or biased discourses and expectations (prejudices), may lead an individual to "see" or "remember" something that has not happened because it is more believable in terms of his/her schema. For example, if a well-dressed businessman draws a knife on a vagrant, the schemata of onlookers may (and often do) lead them to "remember" the vagrant pulling the knife. Such distortion of memory has been demonstrated. (See Background research below.)


Schemata are interrelated and multiple conflicting schemata can be applied to the same information. Schemata are generally thought to have a level of activation, which can spread among related schemata. Which schema is selected can depend on factors such as current activation, accessibility, and priming.


Accessibility
is how easily a schema comes to mind, and is determined by personal experience and expertise. This can be used as a cognitive shortcut; it allows the most common explanation to be chosen for new information.


With priming, a brief imperceptible stimulus temporarily provides enough activation to a schema so that it is used for subsequent ambiguous information. Although this may suggest the possibility of subliminal messages, the effect of priming is so fleeting that it is difficult to detect outside laboratory conditions. Furthermore, the mere exposure effect—which requires consciousness of the stimuli—is far more effective than priming.


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New information that falls within an individual's schema is easily remembered and incorporated into their worldview. However, when new information is perceived that does not fit a schema, many things can happen. The most common reaction is to simply ignore or quickly forget the new information. This can happen on a deep level—frequently an individual does not become conscious of or even perceive the new information. However, when the new information cannot be ignored, existing schemata must be changed.


Assimilation
is the reuse of schemata to fit the new information. For example, when an unfamiliar dog is seen, a person will probably just assimilate it into their dog schema. However, if the dog behaves strangely, and in ways that don't seem dog-like, there will be "accommodation" as a new schema is formed for that particular dog.

 

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Replies to This Discussion

Well, if schemata are the result of evolution, they can't be all bad, at least they must have had a usefulness at some point in our evolutionary history. Even the Wiki article says that (below). I'll look for some papers on this phenomenon later.

 

Schemata are an effective tool for understanding the world. Through the use of schemata, most everyday situations do not require effortful processing—automatic processing is all that is required. People can quickly organize new perceptions into schemata and act effectively without effort. For example, most people have a stairway schema and can apply it to climb staircases they've never seen before.

I agree. I just didn't want people to think that I was being dismissive of it though, like I was trying to point out why thinking goes wrong. I can see it serves a purpose -- especially when influencing the function of automatic pilot.

 

Kind of like the schemata we have about facial expressions. They're instantaneous recognition of mental states.

Interesting article about schema theory and learning (link)

At the bottom of the wiki page there is an article cited that looks interesting, but the link is broken and I was unable to find it online. Something about the Theory of Schema.

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