The Four Types of Cognitive Schemata

The Four Types of Cognitive Schemata

In the perception process we must select, organize and interpret that which we see, hear or feel. Constructivism is the idea that we organize and interpret experience by applying cognitive structures called cognitive schemata. There are four types of these schemata, prototypes, personal construct, stereotypes, and scripts which we use to make sense of phenomena. One or all of these tools can be used to organize our perceptions in a meaningful way.

The first of the schemata is known as a prototype. A prototype defines the clearest or most representative examples of some category. It is an ideal or best example, of a particular category. Stating that a particular person would make the ideal friend, or that someone is the perfect worker, are both means of prototyping. We classify people by the category that most represents them. Then we consider how well they measure up.

The second schemata, personal construct, allows us to measure people and situations. We do so usually after we generalize people into their category or stereotype. Then we make judgment in a bipolar manner and our perception may not include non-highlighted qualities. Thus, we are reminded that the process of selecting and organizing interact to affect our perception.

The third schemata known as stereotyping is the process of predicting generalizations of people and situations. It is very widely used and can be negative as well as positive. However, it is rarely a completely accurate form of measure.

Finally the last schemata which is used as a guide to action is known as a script. A script is a sequence of activities that spells out how we and others are expected to act in a specific situation. We follow these scripts when someone says hello, when we date, at church, and in many other situations. We have been trained by our environment to follow certain paths that can be constructive, destructive or both.

The organization of what we select to interpret has a very large influence on our perception. Our different environments that we have lived in through our lives will always influence our insight. All four cognitive schemata are ever changing based on new environments and how open we are to new ideas. The ability to understand that we can not possibly have a complete understanding of people in this world is crucial to the interpretation process. Only if we realize that we change with every input of information, with every bite of food, with every breath of air can we understand that cognitive schemata are ever-changing. Therefore, we must revisit regularly how we organize our perceptions constantly and replace what we have thought to be true with what we have learned to be truth.