In general, a schema is a mental construct consisting of a cluster or collection of related concepts (Bartlett, 1932). There are many different types of schemata, and they all have one thing in common: schemata are a method of organizing information that allows the brain to work more efficiently. When a schema is activated, the brain makes immediate assumptions about the person or object being observed.
More specifically, self-schemas refer to the mental representations that reflect who someone is—the beliefs, experiences, and generalizations about the self in certain settings or situations throughout life. People can hold self-schemas for different characteristics and traits, interests, and even behaviors. For instance, one person might activate their "healthy-eater" schema: They eat more vegetables and less junk food (Holub, Haney, & Roelse, 2012). Our views of our selves are constantly updated with new encounters and experiences. How many times have you asked yourself: "Who am I?" Has the answer changed?
This text is adapted from OpenStax, Psychology. OpenStax CNX.