organized knowledge structure or mental model that we've stored in memory. (Like when you go into a new class and you know to sit down, open your book, and wait for the instructor to arrive, or when you go to a restaurant, sit down, open you menu and wait for the server to approach).
Schemas are a valuable function: They equip us with frames of reference for interpreting new situations. Without schemas, we'd find some information almost impossible to comprehend.
Schemas and memory mistakes- As valuable as they are, schemas can sometimes create problems, because they can lead us to remember things that never happened. Schemas simplify, which is good because they help us make sense of the world. But schemas sometimes oversimplify, which is bad because they can produce memory illusions. Schemas provide one key explanation for the paradox of memory: They enhance memory in some cases, but lead to memory errors in others. (Ex. participants in a case study learned that Betty was learning a heterosexual lifestyle, while others learned she was living a homosexual lifestyle. Then they gave participants a recognition test for the details in the passage. They found that participants distorted their memories of the original information, such as her relationship with her father and past dating habits, to be in line with their schema- their beliefs about her current lifestyle. For example, participants who believed Betty to be homosexual mistakenly recalled her as never having dated men in high school).