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Last updated: June 19, 2019

A schema is a mental structure, a framework, used to organise our knowledge of the social world around themes or subjects.

There are various schemas (or schemata) which work in many different ways such as role schemas (e. g. how to be a mother), situational schemas (or scripts) and person (self) schemas. Schemas are important because they affect how we see the world, they help guide us through it, influencing how we feel and behave in certain individual and group situations, and also towards certain individuals and groups of people.Studies show that schema have wide-ranging scope and application, from status schemas such as those used by doormen at a nightclub, influencing whether or not they allow people entry (Rivera, Lauren 2010 ) to gender-schema, and their effect on how consumer’s identify with brands and also how the brand in turn effects the person’s self-schema ( Lau, Kong Cheen ; Phau, Ian 2010). We use schemas all the time, every day, such as in understanding what a door is.However, a primary use of schemas relates to our emotions and to our sense of ourselves i. e.

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our self-schemas. A self-schema is a mental model or a representation, containing knowledge about our identity, our self-concept, essentially who we are. The self-schema is a cognitive or a mental structure that integrates and organises the knowledge, feelings and ideas that make up the self-schema. Much of our self-schemas are developed mainly from how others treat us and their expectations of how we will behave.

Studies show that people behave in keeping with the expectations others hold of them e. g. participants in a study behaved in a more extrovert manner because other participants had been led to believe that they were extroverts (Synder as cited in Introductory Psychology ;G. Neil Martin,Neil R. Carson and William Buskist, 2010,Ch. 15 ). Similarly, a study by Terry Marks, Arlene Mayol and Robert de Mayo (1984 and 85) showed that a combination of depressive self-schemas and depressive life events can lead to people experiencing depression.Ninety three college students participated in a study which showed that there is a stronger link between depression and schema relevant or depressive, life events than between depression and schema irrelevant, negative achievement, events.

Another source of the development of self-knowledge or self-schema is through a process known as social comparison. According to Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory (as cited in Introduction to Psychology) (1954) people need to know that their perceptions, attitudes, feelings and behaviours are valid and acceptable to others.This validity, and the confidence that accompanies this, comes from knowing that other people, who are like us, agree with our perceptions.

This in turn leads to a strong self-identity and higher opinion and confidence in our own beliefs. This self-comparison shows how self-identity and our self-schemas are dependent on others, and their validation of our attitudes and perceptions. Posovoc, Posovoc& Posovoc’s study (as cited in D. Trampe et al 2007) showed how important social comparison can be in our self-image and the satisfaction we have with our own bodies.This study found that body-dissatisfied women were more prone to social comparison on seeing thin female body images. This social comparison was evident when the women were shown images of models and non-models.

Participants reported more dissatisfaction when they saw attractive non-models, who were seen as similar to themselves, but seeing the attractive models did not affect reports of dissatisfaction, as models were seen as different to them. As well as emotions relating to ourselves, we also have emotions relating to others, and schemas that organise and control these emotions.Aggression, physical or emotional, a behaviour that physically or psychologically hurts someone, is one such emotion. Aggression can be biological or innate, something intrinsic, that we are born with, as suggested by Freud. Freud suggests that we redirect our death wish or ‘Thanatos’ towards others and this takes the form of aggression. Alternatively, aggression can result from frustration, which inevitably causes it (Frustration-Aggression theory (Dollard et al 1939 as cited in L.

Berkowitz ,1989). Aggression can also be heavily influenced by situational factors that are the social context.According to Bandura’s study (1977), aggression can be learned from watching other people being rewarded for aggressive behaviour and then modelling our behaviour on these people. Additionally, the media can be a factor in both developing and maintaining aggression throughout life. L.

Rowell Huesmann (1986) found that “In both childhood and adulthood, certain cues in the media may trigger the activation of aggressive scripts acquired in any manner and thus stimulate aggressive behaviour. A number of intervening variables may either mitigate or exacerbate these reciprocal effects.If undampened, this cumulative learning process can build enduring schemas for aggressive behaviour that persist into adulthood”. Thus we can see that while the media and situations where aggression is positively rewarded can be factors in developing and maintaining aggressive schema, other factors e. g. innate and biological, can also feature in developing aggression.

Additionally, we use situation schema, or scripts, to help us get around, deal with particular situations for example, queuing at the bank, eating in a restaurant, and behave appropriately in given situations. “… script contains a standard sequence of events characterizing typical activities in a restaurant from the point of view of the customer. ”(Robert Abelson, 1981). As a result, we don’t waste time interpreting each situation anew, but can rely on our schema to help guide us instead. While schemas influence individual’s emotions, self-concept and behaviour, they also influence group behaviour, such as prejudice, where a group and its members are prejudged in specific ways.

This is similar to stereotyping, where people share schemas of social groups and these group schemas seem to be very resistant to change (Fiske and Neuberg, 1990 as cited in Introductory Psychology; G. Neil Martin, Neil R. Carson and William Buskist, 2010, Ch. 15). Like all schemas, stereotyping is a time effective, although negative, way of dealing with people i. e.

the script or schema tells us what people in a certain group are like, without us ever having to get to know them.Additionally, an individual may well hold prejudiced views but not behave in accordance with these views. Expression of prejudiced views is very much influenced by the group, and the concept of an in-group (own group) and out-group (others groups) is helpful in understanding this. People think that members of other groups (out-group) are more similar than members of their own group (in-group) (Linville, 1982).

This is known as the illusion of out-group homogeneity (uniformity). Sometimes, however, this effect is reversed, so that people think their own group is more alike.This is more likely to happen if their group is a minority one. However, Alport (1954 as cited in m. Brewer 2001) proposed that loyalty and identification with a person’s in-group does not always mean there will be hostility towards out-groups. This means that discrimination (which is prejudiced behaviour) can result from in-group preference, or favouritism of the in-group, rather than from hostility toward other groups. In conclusion, this assignment has explored schemas, explained how they develop e. g.

hrough social comparison theory and others expectations of ourselves, and how they influence individual and group behaviour, ranging from experiencing depression, to feelings of prejudice and expression of such views. Schemas vary from situational schemas (scripts), which save us time, to group, role, gender and person schemas. Schemas are important because they try to help us understand some of the factors that influence individual and group behaviour, emotions such as aggression and prejudice and attempt to explain human behaviour in a wide range of social contexts.References: Rivera L, Status Distinctions in Interaction: Social Selection and Exclusion at an Elite Nightclub. Qualitative Sociology, Volume 33, Number 3, September 2010, pp.

229-255(27), publisher Springer Lau, K, C; Phau, I, Impact of gender on perceptual fit evaluation for prestige brands, The Journal of Brand management, Vol 17, Number 5, march 2010, pp 354-367 (14), publisher Palgrave Macmillan. G. N Martin,N R.. Carlson ;W. Buskist,(2010) . Introduction to psychology ,4thed.

,Pearson T. marks, A. Mayol ;Robert De Mayo (1985),Volume 95,issue 2. D. Trampe,D. A Stapel ; F. W Siero,(2007) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol.

92, No. 1, 106–118 A. Bandura(1978),Journal of Communication,Wiley Online Library L. Berkowitz ,(1989), Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis:Examination and Reformulation ,Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 106, No. 1, 59-73 L.

Rowell Heussman (1986) Psychological Processes Promoting the Relation Between Exposure to Media Violence and Aggressive Behavior by the Viewer ,volume 42,issue 3, pg. 25-139 Robert Abelson, (1981) Psychological Status of the script concept, American Psychologist, Vol. 36, No.

7, 715-729 PW Linville,(1982). The complexity-extremity effect and age-based stereotyping. Journal of Personality and Social Psycholog2g, 42, 193-211. J.

Thompson;L. L Crocker,C. M McGraw ; c. Ingerman, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Volume 52, Issue 5, May 1987, Pages 907-916 M. B.

Brewer,(2002)The Psychology of Prejudice-InGroup love and Outgroup Hate,Journal of Social issues,Volume 5,issue 3,


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