How do we receive information and select the memories that we want? How do we make quick decisions in the face of uncertainty? Why are some people fixed in their views and find it difficult to see a different point of view even when there is glaring evidence that show a different picture?

The answer is that we see life through personal lenses and thought patterns called schemas:

  • Schema’s are shortcuts that help to simplify a complex world so that we can make sense of information that we receive quickly. Information is filtered through preconceived thoughts and memories so that we select only the information that we are familiar with.

E.g. A person you meet for the first time says that you have an interesting look and features. What you think of the person who made the statement will be filtered based on preconceived views of yourself. A confident person will filter that information and think that it means they look attractive while a person with negative view of themselves will interpret that statement to mean that they look weird.


  • Schema’s are like a cut-out and we will only choose to accept information that fits into that shape. This can lead to prejudiced thinking.

E.g. If we believe that fat-people are lazy, Then even if we meet an over-weight person who is hardworking, we will choose to focus on the times when this person is not working hard rather than the times when he is industrious.


  • Schema’s can become entrenched and limit our views when we do not consider other possibilities or allow thoughts to be challenged.

E.g There is only a certain way to live life and every other way will not benefit me.


  • Schema’s become patterns of thinking through which we choose to see ourselves, other people and life in general, and over time it becomes part of our core values and believes.

E.g, You believe that only rich people are happy. So if your friends don’t achieve a certain amount of material comfort, you cannot accept that they can be happy.

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