Cover: A critique of schemata as a theory of human story memory

A critique of schemata as a theory of human story memory

Published 1979

by Perry W. Thorndyke, Frank R. Yekovich

Purchase Print Copy

 Format Price
Add to Cart Paperback62 pages $23.00

The concept of a "schema" as a theoretical construct has regained prominence among memory researchers, particularly those studying prose learning. A schema is a cluster of knowledge that describes the typical properties of the concept it represents. Recent theories built upon the notion of schemata have explained numerous results in human comprehension, recall, and summarization of prose. While schema theory provides a plausible and descriptive framework for understanding human knowledge processing, it is ill-constrained and provides few detailed process assumptions. This lack of constraint allows sufficient flexibility to accommodate post hoc many empirical results. However, because of this flexibility, the theory is of limited predictive value and is not testable as a scientific theory in its current form. We detail the strengths and weaknesses of schema theory, affirm its promise as a theory of human memory, and suggest areas for future theoretical development.

This report is part of the RAND paper series. The paper was a product of RAND from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.