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Impact of Schemas

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Schemas are theory-driven: Because schemas are based on our prior expectations and social knowledge, they have been described as ‘theory-driven’ structures that provide organization to social experience. We use these background theories to make sense of new situations and encounters, which suggests that schematic processing is driven by background theories and assumptions rather than actual environmental data (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). Impact of schemas on memory: Human memory is largely reconstructive. We do not usually remember all the precise details of the events in a given situation. Instead, we typically remember some of what happened which is enough to identify the appropriate schema and then rely on that schema to fill in other details. Schemas organize information in memory and, therefore, affect what we remember and what we forget. When trying to recall something, we are more likely to remember those details that are consistent with our schemas than those that are inconsistent (Cohen, 1981).

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Impact of schemas on inferences in social interactions: Schemas affect the inferences we make about persons and other social entities (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). They supply missing facts when gaps exist in our knowledge. If we know certain facts about a person but are ignorant about others, we fill in the gaps by inserting assumptions consistent with our schema for that person. For example, if you know your roommate who is a non-smoker, you can infer that he will not spend time with your new friend who smokes. However, at certain instances the use of schemas can lead to erroneous inferences. If the schema is incomplete or does not incorporate reality mistakes in our inferences are likely. Impact of schemas on social judgements: Schemas can influence our judgments or feelings about persons and other entities. For one thing, the schemas themselves may be organized in terms of evaluative dimensions; this is especially true of person schemas. Schemas serve to evaluate social stimuli as good or bad, normal or abnormal, positive or negative, and some contain a strong affective component; so that when they are activated the associated emotion is cued.

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Schemas are integrated and stable in nature: Once developed and strengthened through use, schemas become integrated structures. Even when only one of its components is accessed in a given situation, strong associative links between the components activate the schema as a unitary whole (Fiske & Dyer, 1985). Well-developed schemas that are activated frequently resist change and persist, even in the face of disconfirming evidences.

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