Schema Theory – a catch-all explanation?
Schema Theory has been around a very long time. It is over 100 years since Bartlett conducted his first experiments on perception and memory at the University of Cambridge, and his book Remembering, written in 1932, is fascinating. He used a repeated reproduction method (where the same participant does a written reproduction of a story at different time intervals after hearing the original). Later he used a serial reproduction method (where different participants pass their written reproduction of the story on from person to person, with only the first seeing or hearing the original). He used an unfamiliar Native American story and his British students to show that memory is an “imaginative reconstruction” based on schemata (schemas) that are themselves developed through the senses and experience (Bartlett, 1932). We want to understand the unfamiliar and therefore we try hard to shape it to fit our preconceptions. The term schema or schemata (plural) was not invented by Bartlett. It was first used in psychology* by Piaget in 1923, but it fits the example of memory as well as it fits Piaget’s example of cognitive development of children.
Explains Everything? When we look at this in a little more detail, it becomes clear that schema theory can be applied to heuristics (thinking fast/system 1 thinking), stereotyping, human relationships, child development and mental health. For example, in 1976, Aaron Beck developed his theory of “dysfunctional schemas” being responsible for major depression. In 1954 Allport pointed out that cognitive processes, such as categorisation, underlie stereotyping. Schemas are categories, frameworks or mental representations and so may be used to explain all human behaviour, it seems, that is based on perception, thought or memory, which seems to encompass pretty much everything in cognitive psychology!
Critics of schema theory point to this tendency for it to be able to explain all our cognitive processes and any actions based on them. Psychologists such as Cohen (1993) have argued that it is a vague concept. It also does not explain how we understand new information that has no link to any of our pre-existing schemas. Of course, Bartlett would have replied that we change it to fit what we know, but this seems to exclude novelty and creativity in our understanding.
However, until we have something better, schema theory seems to explain and predict most human behaviour, and maybe this should be seen as a strength, rather than a limitation.
*Philosophy students may point out that the concept of schema was used by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason, first published in German in 1781. But we can disregard that for our purposes.
Great for Revision!
Have you been caught out by the need for exams, even though you and your students have been under lockdown for months? Or would you just like a summary of all the classic and modern studies you’ll ever want? Then Psychology Sorted can solve your problems. Order the Kindle version (just $10.59 at the moment!) for instant access to everything you need to help your students revise, or have the beautiful hard copy for your own bookshelf. Available on all Amazon sites. https://tinyurl.com/y95phpw3 And please leave us a review
How to conduct your Psychology Internal Assessment experiment remotely
This is our latest film on the Psychology Sorted Youtube channel. There is plenty on this blog about how to write your IA, but this video will help you think through the data-collection process when your group is working remotely. How do you obtain informed consent? How do you get your participants? How do you get enough participants? How do you control the variables, debrief participants and share the data collection?
We also provide a useful IA proposal sheet that you, the student, should submit to your teacher for approval before starting to conduct your experiment.
Watch out for more useful Psychology videos this week!
Extended essay – self assess your draft
So you’ve ‘pulled it all together’ and written your draft extended essay. Exciting times! Your references are all in alphabetical order, you’ve used 12 pt academic font and double-spaced and numbered your pages. It’s looking good and you’re feeling great!
However, before you hand your precious work in to your supervisor for the one and only piece of written feedback you’re allowed, pause for a few hours, or even days. Take this document, which is already set up with the top band descriptors for every criterion, and go through your essay yourself. Then give your self-assessment to your supervisor with your draft. Unless you decide after doing this that there is more work to be done before you hand in your draft, of course!
Of course, this is only possible if you have a few days. If you have just hurled your essay at your supervisor a few minutes before the deadline, then send them this link and they can use it to give you feedback on your work.
Study under lockdown! Ppt with narration, tasks and SAQ plan.
For those of you wanting some extra help/guidance/just for interest here is a link to my youtube channel and a unit of work on the Sociocultural Approach, Culture and its Effect on Behaviour. Play the video and carry out the tasks. Enjoy!
Online teaching and learning
Many of us are now teaching our classes through a virtual learning environment. Most had very little notice, maybe one or two days, and are now on the steepest learning curve ever. Here are a few tips, followed by some very useful sites and links:
Several online sites are very kindly offering teachers free access to psychology resources for at least a month, and often through to the end of June 2020.
- Quizlet Teacher
- Zoom.us – not resources, but a great free meeting platform for running discussion groups
Thank you to those teachers who have sent their students home with copies of Psychology Sorted. Our sales have held steady through March, and we’re sure, with the key studies summaries, QR codes and links to many online resources, all students will appreciate this.
Finally, for those who would like to use psychology as a lens for discussing the current pandemic:
- Independent article by author Steven Taylor
- Psychology of Disasters
- The Ghost Map
- Asian news article from 6 weeks ago about reactions to the coronavirus. Interesting in retrospect.
I am sure there will soon be more resources available on this topic.
Cognitive biases like those listed on the Raconteur site (see this link, and below) can be a useful way to describe not only our own reaction to all the troubling news of the Covid-19 virus, but also to analyse the ever-changing reactions of some of the more prominent politicians! Here’s hoping your families and you keep safe, and stay online 🙂
New book just published
My new book is out! It’s a biography of Sandra Bem and an explanation of her theories of gender schema and androgyny. An easy read for students and teachers. https://a.co/d/f7QOXlu