Social Schema Theory is a psychological concept that explains how we use our previous experiences to interpret new information. The theory suggests that we have preconceived ideas or mental frameworks, called “schemas,” which help us make sense of the world around us.

What Are Schemas?

Schemas are cognitive structures that store information and help us interpret new experiences. They are built through past experiences and accumulated knowledge. We use schemas to organize and categorize our understanding of the world, making it easier for us to process new information.

Types of Schemas

There are different types of schemas, including:

Person Schemas:

These schemas relate to our knowledge about people, their characteristics, behaviors, and roles in society. For instance, we have a schema for doctors, which includes their profession, education level, work environment, etc.

Social Role Schemas:

These schemas relate to our expectations of people based on their social roles. For example, we expect a teacher to be patient and knowledgeable and a police officer to be authoritative and responsible.

Event Schemas:

These schemas relate to our knowledge about specific events or situations. For example, if we think about a wedding ceremony, we can imagine the bride walking down the aisle in her white dress with music playing in the background.

The Role of Social Schema Theory in Social Psychology

Social schema theory is an essential concept in social psychology. It helps explain how people interpret social situations based on their pre-existing mental frameworks. It also shows how these mental frameworks can lead to biases or stereotypes.

For example, suppose someone has a schema for lawyers that includes characteristics such as being aggressive and manipulative. In that case, they may expect all lawyers they meet to exhibit those traits regardless of whether it’s accurate or not.

How Can We Use Social Schema Theory to Improve Our Understanding of Others?

While schemas can sometimes lead to biases, they can also help us understand individuals and groups better. By learning about someone’s background and experiences, we can gain insight into their schemas and how they interpret the world around them.


Overall, social schema theory is a valuable concept that helps us understand how we use our past experiences to interpret new information. It is essential to recognize the role of schemas in our thinking and be mindful of how they might influence our perceptions of others. By doing so, we can improve our understanding of people and build more positive relationships.