What Is Self Schema in Social Psychology?


Diego Sanchez

What Is Self Schema in Social Psychology?

In social psychology, self-schema refers to the cognitive structures that individuals use to organize and interpret information about themselves. It is a mental framework that helps individuals process and remember information related to their self-concept.

The Concept of Self-Schema

Self-schema theory was first proposed by psychologist Mark Baldwin in 1986. According to this theory, individuals possess various self-schemas that represent different aspects of their identity, such as personality traits, roles, values, and goals. These schemas act as filters through which individuals perceive and interpret information about themselves and the world around them.

Self-schemas are developed through experiences and interactions with others over time. They are influenced by cultural, social, and environmental factors. For example, someone who identifies strongly with their role as a student may have a self-schema that includes attributes such as being studious, organized, and responsible.

Characteristics of Self-Schema

  • Centrality: Self-schemas are central to an individual’s self-concept. They represent the most important and salient aspects of one’s identity.
  • Consistency: Self-schemas tend to be stable over time and resistant to change.

    They provide a sense of continuity and coherence to one’s self-concept.

  • Cognitive Processing: Self-schemas influence how individuals process information about themselves. They affect attention, perception, memory, and decision-making processes.

Implications of Self-Schema

The presence of self-schemas has several implications for social cognition and behavior:

  • Stereotyping: Self-schemas can lead to the formation and reinforcement of stereotypes. Individuals may interpret information in a way that confirms their existing self-schemas, leading to biased perceptions of others.
  • Self-Enhancement: Self-schemas can contribute to self-enhancement biases, where individuals tend to focus on and remember positive information about themselves while ignoring or downplaying negative information.
  • Identity Salience: Activating a particular self-schema can make that aspect of identity more salient in a given context. This can influence behavior and decision-making, as individuals may act in accordance with their activated self-schema.


Self-schema plays a crucial role in social cognition and behavior. It acts as a cognitive framework through which individuals process and interpret information about themselves. Understanding the concept of self-schema helps us comprehend how our beliefs, values, and identities shape our perception of ourselves and the world around us.

By recognizing the influence of self-schemas, we can become more aware of our cognitive biases and strive for a more accurate understanding of ourselves and others.