Mental Representations In Semantic Memory
Two specific types of mental representations hypothesized to be used by the semantic memory system to organize information are schemas and categories. Schemas are ordered frameworks or outlines of world knowledge that help us organize and interpret new information. They are like maps or blueprints into which new related information will be fitted. Knowledge of your home town or city, with its streets, various buildings, and neighborhoods is an example of a schema.
Research shows that new information relating to knowledge one already has will be remembered better than information about a topic one has little or no knowledge of. Thus, if two people are given directions to a party, the individual who knows the layout of their city or town pretty well will tend to remember the directions to the party better than a person who has little or no knowledge of the city's layout. This is presumably because the person with the pre-existing knowledge is able to fit the new information into their older knowledge, and thus form a stronger link in memory.
Schemas also help to reconstruct, or try to remember, information that may have been forgotten. For example, if a friend brings up something that happened one time you both went out to eat dinner a few months ago and you don't remember it clearly, you might ask for more information, and then use your schema for the usual sequence of events in eating out to try to remember or reconstruct what happened. The accuracy of reconstructions is open to question.
Categories are another representational form of thought used by semantic memory to organize information. Categories are sets of objects, experiences, or ideas, that are grouped together because they are similar to one another in some respect. For example, apartments, houses, huts, and igloos, might be grouped under the category of dwellings. Like schemas, categories help us make sense of, and organize, the multitudinous aspects of the world.
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