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Schemas and Media Effects

Jörg Matthes

Subject Communication Studies » Communication Reception and Effects
Psychology » Cognitive Psychology

Key-Topics memory

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


According to schema theory, the encoding and processing of information depends on learned, relatively stable cognitive structures in long-term memory, so called →  schemas (Information Processing). These cognitive structures include knowledge about concepts, persons, events, and the self. When individuals encounter a stimulus, they search their minds for the appropriate schema to match the stimulus. The selected schema then structures the way the stimulus is interpreted. Because individuals use their prior knowledge to process and to understand the stimuli, schema theory is an example of top-down or concept-driven processing. This basic idea of schemas can be traced back to the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who proposed the existence of innate structures that guide us to perceive the world (→  Perception ). The scientific concept, however, was introduced by British psychologist Sir Frederic Bartlett in 1932. Bartlett investigated the recall of folktales and he observed that individuals’ understanding of the tales was shaped by their expectations. He concluded that individuals have substantive numbers of mental structures that are responsible for the schematized errors in the recall of those tales. Because Bartlett's schema construct was not compatible with the dominant paradigm in psychology in the 1930s, the concept needed another 40 years until it re-emerged as a dominant theory ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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