Schemas are cognitive structures that stem from previous practical knowledge and understandings, they are used to mentor our behavior and our actions and to help us interpret our contemporary experiences. Schemas makes it easier and help us clarify reality, setting up suppositions about what is expected regarding certain social and textual contexts.
Bartlett was a psychologist and the first professor of experimental psychology in the University of Cambridge, he described how schema impacts the ability to remember in his research with the ”War of the Ghosts” story. Bartlett discovered that three things happened when he did his research: assimilation, sharpening and leveling when people were narrating the story. From previous schema, he also discovered that it can cause manipulation to the memory. In his study, he explained a Native American legend to the candidates that volunteered. Because the candidates were from Britain, they didn’t understand many of the concepts and names in the story. There were two groups of people to whom they told the story, in the first one, they asked the candidates to reproduce the story over and over again in a short period of time. They told the other group of candidates to think back to the story and tell it to another person. The participants in both of the groups altered the stories because of how they remembered it, Bartlett found out. Parts of the story that seemed to be unimportant to the candidates were cut off by them and that is how the story became shorter and shorter every time a person retold it. In order to make sense of the story for themselves, with expressions that they recognized, regarding their own culture, they unintentionally changed the arrangement of the story. We are able to decide if the schema makes it easier for us to learn or intervenes with our knowledge and how it influences, which means that schema theory can be tested. In another research, Brewer and Treyens were also successful with their study. Even though the participants didn’t know what the study was going to be about, they complied to sitting in an office and waiting, the researchers began with the study while the candidates were waiting in the office but the participants didn’t know that the study already began. After several minutes, they had to go to another room to tell them which objects they remembered being in the room where they waited. They told the researchers that they remembered items like books that were not even in the office, they thought that there were books in the office because of compatibility and how our brains make sense of certain things. In the same manner as schema predicts, our brain instinctively and unconsciously sorts information and categorizes and organizes it. In order to understand how memory works and memory distortions, schema theory has helped us to do this and has been very useful to us, it has also helped researchers to learn and make sense of violence, depression and bullying. Cohen has argued that because schema can not be observed even with the use of fMRI, which is a machine used to measure brain activity by detecting changes connected with blood flow, that it is too indefinite and theoretical and researchers can never know what the person is thinking at the same exact moment.
We can anticipate a certain behavior or predict what a person will remember and which words will one chose if given a list of words with the schema theory, but we can not foretell accurately what will someone remember. Nevertheless, we can never certainly know how schemas affect cognitive processes and how they are acquired to begin with, we can never see how schema is processed from the brain.