The word schema comes from the Greek word “σχήμα” (skhēma), which means shape, or more generally, plan. The plural is “σχήματα” (skhēmata). The term “schema” (plural: schemata [UK], or sometimes schemas [USA]) is used in the sciences of learning and cognition to designate a psychological construct that accounts for the molar forms of human knowledge. A schema represents the generic and abstract knowledge a person has acquired in the course of numerous individual experiences with objects, people, situations, and events. Schemas organize knowledge about specific stimulus domains and guide both the processing of new information and the retrieval of stored information. They can be viewed as structured expectations about people, situations, and events.
Some authors have argued (e.g., Neisser 1976) that all human knowledge – everything from knowledge about the form of the letter A to abstract knowledge about astrophysics...
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout
Purchases are for personal use onlyLearn about institutional subscriptions
Anderson, R. C. (1984). Some reflections on the acquisition of knowledge. Educational Researcher, 13(9), 5–10.
Bartlett, F. C. (1932). Remembering: A study in experimental and social psychology, Cambridge: University Press.
Brown, A. L. (1979). Theories of memory and the problems of development: Activity, growth, and knowledge. In L. S. Cermak & F. I. M. Craik (Eds.), Levels of processing in human memory (pp. 225–258). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.
Bühler, K. (1918). Die geistige Entwicklung des Kindes. Jena: Verlag Gustav Fischer.
Eckblad, G. (1981). Scheme theory. A conceptual framework for cognitive-motivational processes. London: Academic.
Kant, I. (1781/1929) Critique of pure reason. Trans. N. K. Smith. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Mandler, J. M. (1984). Stories, scripts, and scenes: Aspects of schema theory. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.
Neisser, U. (1976). Cognition and reality. San Francisco: Freeman.
Rumelhart, D. E., Smolensky, P., McClelland, J. L., & Hinton, G. E. (1986). Schemata and sequential thought processes in PDP models. In J. L. McClelland, D. E. Rumelhart, & The PDP research group (Eds.), Parallel distributed processing. Explorations in the microstructure of cognition (Psychological and biological models, Vol. 2, pp. 7–57). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Selz, O. (1913). Über die Gesetze des geordneten Denkverlaufes. Eine experimentelle Untersuchung. Stuttgart: Speemann.
Editors and Affiliations
© 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC
About this entry
Cite this entry
Seel, N.M. (2012). Schema(s). In: Seel, N.M. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_3
Publisher Name: Springer, Boston, MA
Print ISBN: 978-1-4419-1427-9
Online ISBN: 978-1-4419-1428-6