Rumelhart, D.E. (1980) Schemata: the building blocks of cognition. In: R.J. Spiro etal. (eds) Theoretical Issues in Reading Comprehension, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Text

Rumelhart, D.E. (1980) Schemata: the building blocks of cognition. In: R.J. Spiro etal. (eds) Theoretical Issues in Reading Comprehension, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Abstract

One of the most influential theory on schemas and concepts which are crucial issue for a larger cognitive area regarding knowledge is the schema theory. The theory, besides the frame theory (Minksy 1975) is one of the pillars of current cognitive knowledge about schemata. As “Schemata can represent knowledge at all levels-from ideologies and cultural truths to knowledge about the meaning of a particular word, to knowledge about what patterns of excitations are associated with what letters of the alphabet. We have schemata to represent all levels of our experience, at all levels of abstraction. Finally, our schemata are our knowledge. All of our generic knowledge is embedded in schemata.” (Rumelhart 1980).

Schema theory assumes that when individuals obtain knowledge, they attempt to fit that knowledge into some structure in memory that help them make sense of that knowledge. Schema theory proposes that the individuals breakdown information into generalizable chunks which are then categorically stored in the brain for later recall. Schema theory is an active strategy coding technique necessary for facilitating the recall of knowledge. As new knowledge is perceived, it is coded into either a pre-existing schema or organized into a new script. Schemata are organized mental structures that allows the learners to understand and associate what is being presented to them.

According to this theory, schemata represent knowledge about concepts: objects and the relationships they have with other objects, situations, events, sequences of events, actions, and sequences of actions. A simple example is to think of your schema for dog. Within that schema you most likely have knowledge about dogs in general (bark, four legs, teeth, hair, tails) and probably information about specific dogs, such as collies (long hair, large, Lassie) or springer spaniels (English, docked tails, liver and white or black and white, Millie). You may also think of dogs within the greater context of animals and other living things; that is, dogs breathe, need food, and reproduce. Your knowledge of dogs might also include the fact that they are mammals and thus are warm-blooded and bear their young as opposed to laying eggs. Depending upon your personal experience, the knowledge of a dog as a pet

(domesticated and loyal) or as an animal to fear (likely to bite or attack) may be a part of your schema. And so it goes with the development of a schema. Each new experience corporates more information into one’s schema.

Comments

The theory assumes how a knowledge is acquired and stored In the cognitive architecture. Such theories as the above one or the frame theory (Minsky 1975) allow to think seriously about computer simulation of larger areas of the human cognition. This ability gives us much more; we have more and more deterministic knowledge about human cognition. Independently from the above such theories are very useful for any discipline dealing with knowledge and schemas. Nowdays it is difficult to  discuss about conceptual schemes in law and ethics without referring to the above mentioned influential scheme theories.

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