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Schemas

  • By: Janet B. Ruscher & Alecia M. Santuzzi
  • In: Encyclopedia of Social Psychology
  • Edited by: Roy F. Baumeister & Kathleen D. Vohs
  • Subject:Social Psychology (general)
Definition

A schema is a cognitive representation of a concept, its associated characteristics, and how those characteristics are interrelated. Social schemas are representations of social concepts and may include notions of physical appearance, traits, behavioral information, and functions. Social schemas may be relatively concrete (e.g., one's fifth-grade teacher) or abstract (e.g., likable person). When a schema is activated, the characteristics of the concept are evoked spontaneously. For example, the concept “librarian” may bring to mind a drably attired unmarried woman, who is quiet, reads books, and helps one conduct a literature search. Those characterizations may be entirely false in general, and certainly many specific librarians will differ from that stereotype, but they are the characteristics that the observer associates with the concept. Although social schemas ...

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