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Development, Maintenance and Removal of Self-Schemas

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Development, Maintenance and Removal of Self-Schemas.

Schemas are the classification of our mental that contains information about human beings, a situation or a concept. It affects a person’s interpretation and ways they attend to it (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian,2008). It is a ‘cognitive structure that represents knowledge about a concept or type of stimulus, including its attributes and the relations among those attributes’ (Fiske & Taylor,1991, p.98).  It consists of mutual cognitions that help to ease the process of making sense of a person, occasion, condition or situation by depending on the available knowledge. A different stimulus triggers a different type of schema (Vaughan, G., & Hogg, M. A.,2005). Schemas plays a major role in our self as it influences the human perception, bias and social behaviour and has the potential to distort the brain’s thoughts. There are various types of schemas which are used for different situation and occasion. Person schema is applied in our judgements regarding the traits that the self or another person has. Role-schemas are used when the person is in a particular job or a social position. When someone is in a specific event or occasion, Event-schemas are activated which contains behaviour that is associated with a specific activities or events. Self-Schemas, on the other hand, is a specific schema that plays a role on one’s self. Knowledge and information about ourselves which impacts, changes, and disrupts perception, memory and behaviour are what self-schemas consist of (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian,2008). In certain places, people reflect the view of their own self-based on their relationships with the people they associate with whereas, in other places, it is associated with their personal achievements. The distinct beliefs which refer to self-schemas are the parts that build a person’s identity (Myers, 2010). There are a few theories that support different ways on how a self-schema is developed. According to Markus (1977), past experiences shapes the self-schema of a person. The things that have occurred in the past acts as a base foundation for the development of certain schemas. It is also believed that self-schemas are developed through the amount of time a person reflects about their own selves (Nasby,1985). The more a person thinks of their present self and future self, the more likely they are to develop a complex self-schema (Markus & Nurius,1986). This essay is going to discuss on how the self-schemas developed and the question whether it is maintained throughout a person’s course of life or does it change constantly depending on the situation it is in.

Markus (1977) states that the past plays a major role in the development of self-schemata. It is built upon the information that was processed in the past which affects the input and output of the information regarding one’s own self (Markus,1977). The self is not fixated but rather is a self-concept which is built from a person’s social experiences (Higgins et al,1982). The patterns of social behaviour that have been observed continuously through the progress of their life becomes a template that is able to infer from a scarce information and interpret a sophisticated situation. (Markus,1977)

A repetition of a behaviour by a person could also generate self-schemas that are used by the person to further improve their own judgement and understanding which then becomes the basis for the future self (Markus,1977). When a person encounters more instances, the schemas becomes more conceptual and are not rigid to only a specific instance (Park, 1986). The schema gets more complex and widens as it obtains more experience from the instances (Linville,1982). A highly complex schema becomes organised as the links between schematic elements get more complicated (McKiethen, Reitman, Rueter & Hirtle ,1981). The schema gets extremely organised and becomes a composed schema which represents a unit of mental construct that activates everything if it is triggered (Schul,1983). At this point, the schema becomes much more flexible and accepting of differences to preserve the validity of the schema (Fiske & Neuberd,1990). A schema that has been established, acts as a selective mechanisms that decide if an information should be attended to, the composition of the information, relevancy of it and the procedure after the information is processed. When a person undergoes a repetitive experience that stimulates the same type of schema, that particular schema becomes rigid and is able to resist contradiction and inconsistency in information. Even though it has resistance towards inconsistency, it is still vulnerable to it (Markus,1977).

The differences in self-schemata in everyone should be easily identified due to the fact that every individual differs in past experience. A few empirical referents can be utilised to present the logic behind the concept of self-schemata to support the argument that self-schemas are derived mainly from past experiences. Firstly, an individual that has developed self-schemas are capable of processing information quickly if it is regarding the self in a specific area of interest. Secondly, the person can recall behavioural evidence from the specified area. Thirdly, the future behaviour of the self in the domain can be predicted. Lastly, they can oppose counter schematic information about themselves. A person that had only minor experience in a specified area of social behaviour or has not given any attention to the behaviour will not have a definite self-schema (Markus, 1977)

A study was done by Markus (1977) in which the participants had to undergo different cognition task. One of the tasks is where the participants are given a booklet which contains random adjectives and is told to circle the ones that best describe themselves. They had to elaborate and provide with behavioural evidence to support the adjectives chosen. The hypothesis for this specific task is that the amount of behavioural evidence that is provided and the time it takes to generate instances by the participants is due to their past experience. The result of this study is shows that the subjects had written the evidence with ease and with precise example for each adjective that they had circled if the adjectives are related to their past experience whereas the participants that were Aschematics, had only written lesser evidence and fewer details due to not having much experience in the particular dimension. It is shown based on the results that individuals that are lacking in schemas of a specific dimension had a hard time providing behavioural evidence. (Markus,1977)

The complexity and the improbable of the social world pressure the schemas to maintain because schemas tend to be rigid in terms of structure and order (Crocker, Fiske & Taylor, 1984). Anything that disconfirms and threatens a schema validity is usually ignored or reinterpreted. A research by Ross, Lepper and Hubbard (1975) where a group of participants were told to analyse a couple of suicide notes and guess which was genuine. The participants were differently told on how many times they had gotten it right which is 10, 17 and 24 out of 25 times. After that, the experimenter told the participants that they were lied to and requested the participant to estimate again. The people who had been told the higher numbers remains the same and resumes to guess high (Ross, Lepper and Hubbard,1975) Thoughts also has the ability to maintain schemas because people frequently thinks about schemas which stimulate the schema-consistent evidence cognitive process (Millar & Tesser, 1986). Schemas are also maintained by depending heavily on the prior judgments. When a list of judgement is created from the same individual, the later judgments are made from the earlier impression of that particular person and not the trait information. The main component of the schema is then lost and are no longer analysed. (Schul & Burnstein, 1985)

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