Schemas are conceptual paradigms that people rely on to aid them in information processing,
decision making and memory. A schema for a certain social situation might contain the
sequence of events that is normally associated with that situation. Our schema for visiting a
friend may include calling ahead of time, greeting our friend, interacting with them and finally
thanking them.  Schemas can help to make certain routines become second nature and also
help us to develop mental representations or “theories” about how our world operates.

Sometimes we use schemas to help us remember certain events more clearly.  For example
we can question our schemas to prod us into remembering memories or hard to recall facts.  
For example I might forget what I wore last Sunday, but remembering that I attended a wedding
might help jog my memory.

Using schemas incorrectly however can easily lead to cognitive errors.  Imagine a person that
just realized that they left their jacket at work sometime in the last week.  If the person usually
takes the bus to work then they might follow a certain schema about taking the bus in order to
retrace all of their steps.  This schema may influence them to call the bus line.  Imagine though
that on the day that they lost their jacket they got a ride from a friend. This is an instance where
relying on knowledge about a schema, will not help.

Sometimes you have to think outside the box and consider the possibilities of other less
normative routines coming into play. When the person realizes this they might think about other
ways of getting to work and they might think of calling their friend.  

Paradigm: noun
Something that serves as a model or pattern.  A set of beliefs, value or practices that
constitutes a way of thought.  A systematic conceptualization in an intellectual discipline.
Organization for the Advancement of   
Interdisciplinary Learning