Dana Scully, Rickie Lambert and the Power of Schemas

Dana Scully, Rickie Lambert and the Power of Schemas
July 10, 2014 Chris Rowland

By TTT Subscriber Joe Simpson (Wolf Tickets209).

The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In my younger days I can remember being continually frustrated with Dana Scully (for different reasons than the majority of teenage boys I’d imagine). My frustration stemmed from the fact that no matter what she would see or what evidence Mulder would find of something paranormal she would not accept it. Typical exchange:

Scully: Ah, I mean, it could have been a spaceship. Mulder, but you don’t…
Mulder: Of course it was a spaceship.
Scully: Look, we don’t know that it was, but you don’t have a picture of it or anything.
Mulder: You know it was a spaceship, you saw it!
Scully: No, I did, no no, no, no, no. Remember, I was unconscious…
Mulder: You were unconscious? Apparently you’re still unconscious!

(X-Files season 8, episode 19)

How could someone be so blind and not see what is right in front of them? It couldn’t happen – not the spaceships part, the not seeing what is staring you in the face part – in real life though could it? Well yes it does frequently, and in every area of life to some extent. The reason Scully could not see what was before her was the power of schemas – cognitive frameworks or concepts that helps us to organise and interpret information.

Schemas can be useful because they allow us to take shortcuts in interpreting the vast amount of information that is available in our environment. However, these mental frameworks can also cause us to exclude pertinent information to instead focus only on things that confirm our pre-existing beliefs and ideas.

I was reminded of the potent power of schemas in football recently when Liverpool first began to be linked with Adam Lallana. Whenever Liverpool are linked to a new player, I have a ritual that goes like this: I watch every video of them I can get hold of and read anything I can about them to try and see what qualities they might bring to the team (I know; sad but true). Anyway when we were first strongly linked to Lallana, who I already liked as a player, I began my usual routine of watching videos of him and Southampton playing. Whilst doing this, an internal dialogue began to occur on the very edge of my awareness about another of their players – and now another of our players –  Rickie Lambert. It went something like this:

That was an alright pass from Lambert

British journeyman battering ram

That was an alright touch from Lambert

British journeyman battering ram

That was a good pass from Lambert

British journeyman battering ram

That was a good touch from Lambert

British journeyman battering ram

That was a very good pass from Lambert

British journeyman battering ram

Following several more examples of very good passes and good touches from Lambert…

Lambert seems like a good passer for a target man

British journeyman battering ram

As the good passes and touches continued…

Lambert is actually an alright footballer

British journeyman battering ram

Lambert’s got quite a few good passes in his locker

British journeyman battering ram

What a brilliant pass from Lambert.

Lambert is actually a very good footballer

Why was I having this internal mental struggle over the abilities of Rickie Lambert and why was my initial judgment of him so harsh?

Lambert signs

It was a demonstration of the power of schemas. Schemas have been described as:

a cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. Schemas can be useful because they allow us to take shortcuts in interpreting the vast amount of information that is available in our environment. However, these mental frameworks also cause us to exclude pertinent information to instead focus only on things that confirm our pre-existing beliefs and ideas. Schemas can contribute to stereotypes and make it difficult to retain new information that does not conform to our established ideas about the world. http://psychology.about.com/od/sindex/g/def_schema.htm

They are particularly powerful when we lack knowledge on an issue/area – in this case a footballer – as we tend to use the schemas we have built up to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. If we have little or no knowledge on a player, we either simply acknowledge that we have no knowledge of the player (something I/we in my experience rarely tend to do) and wait until we have seen enough of the player to judge them as objectively as possible, or we use others’ knowledge of the player to help us create a schema on the player (like I do by reading up on players before we sign them), or we use any loosely-linked schema to help us create a schema to help us judge a player.

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