Schema is a mental structure we use to organize and simplify our knowledge. Every person has a schema within themselves and every person’s schema is very different from one another (Adler, n.d.). Some people develop more than one schema based on social situations, personal situations, and environmental situations. An example of a person having more than one schema can be shown by discussing how a baby falls down and gets hurt. That child may react to falling down differently based on the people who are around her and witnessed her fall as well as where she is when she falls down. In laymen terms a schema is how a person perceives something. If a person who owns a German Sheppard dog looks at a German Sheppard dog they may feel comfortable and safe because they know the dog is very protective and usually trained well. Another person who may have had a negative experience with dogs in general or a German Sheppard dog might feel very frightened because their schema tells them that this dog is scary and viscous (Armbruster, 1996).
Schemas are used in social environments every minute of every day and everyone uses a schema, most of the time not even knowing it. A great example of the ways in which people use schemas in their social environment is when a person judges another person based on their appearance whether it be their clothes, shoes, style, hair cut, car they drive, etc. One would agree that if a person is dressed in all black clothing with dark eye makeup and black hair, they would be thought of as a gothic person and possibly even depressed. Another schema within a social environment would be when you see a person get out of a brand new BMW in name brand clothes. One would suggest that this person is either extremely successful in their place of business or that they are a drug dealer.
Either way, this stereotypical schema is not necessarily true and the person we are viewing could be renting the car while their car is in the shop or borrowing a family/friends car. Sometimes our schemas may also lead us to the social groups and friends in which we choose throughout our life time. One may classify themselves as prep and therefore chooses their friends based on their preppy clothing style rather than by personality and whether they get along with one another or not. This type of schema is generally noticed in the junior high school and high school level children because they are beginning to notice cliques as well as the want to be popular amongst their peers. At the age of junior high and senior high school students, all one wants is to fit in with their peers as well as be liked and accepted. By joining a certain clique children learn that they gain this feeling of acceptance and friendship in which they are all craving (Driscoll, 1994).
In junior high school as well as in high school I was classified as a member of the preppy and jock clique. I was classified within this group based on the clothing I wore and the sports in which I participated in. When a group has noticeable things in common it gives people the inspiration to communicate with one another. It was clear to other people’s schemas that I fit into this clique because I always dressed well for school including collared shirts and khaki shorts or jeans. I also participated in many sports and received high grades from all of my teachers. I was well liked not only by the peers within my social group but also by my peers in other cliques because of my funny personality and ability to make others feel comfortable around me.
This allowed for other people’s schemas to tell them that I was an approachable person as well as a person of character. I believe people join groups to feel comfort or to fit in with their peers. When a group has noticeable things in common it gives people the drive to communicate with one another because they have found common ground within. Other times in which schemas really show is during social or organizational events. This is because people group with others of similar beliefs, views, and opinions because it is easier to express their views and be understood during communication with one another. This common ground also gives people a sense of acceptance and comfort, because they know they are not alone in their feelings or opinions on a specific topic or situation.
In conclusion, schemas are possessed by all human minds and can be drastically varied from individual to individual. Schemas can be seen in all environments and all circumstances. A schema is a way in which the mental mind judges and perceives the outside world based on past and present experiences. It is because of these mental schemas that people choose to click themselves within a certain group of friends in order to feel comfortable. It is these same schemas which cause a baby to either cry or not when they fall, and whether or not a person is scared of a dog based on personal experiences.
Adler, R. (n.d.). Psychology Portal Psychology 20: Social Schema. Retrieved June 24, 2009, from saskschools http://www.saskschools.ca/~psychportal/Psych20/topics/social_schema.htmArmbruster, B. (1996). “Schema Theory and the design of content-area textbooks.” EducationalPsychologist, 21, 253-276Driscoll, M. (1994). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.