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Dilemmas: Where No Schema Has Gone Before

Sun, August 13, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 514A


Over the last two decades, the word schema has become increasingly used by scholars studying culture. Viewed largely as a kind of mental shortcut that individuals internalize by means of their various experiences, the concept enables researchers to study how societal-level factors such as norms and values impact individual action by way of shaping individuals’ cognitive structures. However, little attention is given to how and why particular schemata are used in particular situations. Through comparative analysis of two sets of in-depth interviews on the topics of dying and careers, I find that individuals alternate through various schemata as they attempt to answer questions posed to them. I argue that the presence of this alternation weakens assumptions regarding the automaticity of the deployment of schemata in the decision making process by signalling that schemata may be triggered automatically but used temporarily.