Term of Art: Schema

“Schema: A plan, diagram, or outline, especially a mental representation of some aspect of experience, based on prior experience and memory, structured in such a way as to facilitate (and sometimes to distort) perception, cognition, the drawing of inferences, or the interpretation of new information in terms of existing knowledge. The term was first used in a psychological sense by the English neurologist Sir Henry Head (1861-1940), who restricted its meaning to a person’s internal body image, and it was given its modern meaning by the English psychologist Sir Frederic Charles Bartlett (1886-1969) in his book Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology [1932, p. 199] to account for the observation that errors in the recall of stories tend to make them more conventional, which Bartlett attributed to the assimilation of the stories to a pre-existing schemata. The concept of a frame, introduced in 1975 by the US cognitive scientist Marvin (Lee) Minsky (1927-2016), is essentially a schema formalized in artificial intelligence. A script is a schema of an event sequence.

[From Greek schema a form, from echein to have]”

Excerpted from: Colman, Andrew M., ed. Oxford Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003

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