Evaluate the contribution of social schemas theory and related research in helping us to understand the way in which people perceive their social environment.

Social cognition is the broad topic used to describe how social experience affects what people see and how they make judgements.   This can be further broken down to cognitive structures called a schema.   This essay looks at what the benefits and drawbacks are of the social schema theory when describing how people understand and perceive their social environment.
People often perceive the social environment by their personal knowledge, expectations and assumptions of the world. This is clearly demonstrated when these assumptions and expectations are shown to be incorrect.   This is highlighted in a tv commercial which aired some years ago.   A young man with a shaven head, wearing Doc Martin boots and combat trousers was seen running along a pavement towards a smartly dressed man.   The young man pushes the smartly dressed man giving viewers the impression that he is going to assault him.   However it is not until the final shot that you see a pallet of bricks about to fall on the smartly dressed man and the young man pushes him out of the way, saving him.   This example shows how social perception is shaped by the knowledge of how things usually happen in the social world.  
Some psychologists believe that there are cognitive structures involved in this process.   Each structure is called a schema.   A schema is a mental structure containing knowledge relating to a particular kind of object.   The cognitive structure is a particular way in which information is organised in memory, how it is stored, accessed and used.   In social psychology schemas are based on social objects.   These social objects can include types of person, types of social situation or activity and social issues.   Information within a schema is knowledge packaged together so that each piece of information is linked to the whole.   Having...