Framing and the Construction of Perception

Everything piece of information that we come into contact with (on social media, on TV, from peers, etc.) has to pass through a frame of reference. We construct our frame of reference from our experiences. Every bit of stimuli we encounter passes through this frame of reference and is encoded into our current understanding of reality.

Schema theory was introduced by Bartlett in 1932 and further developed in the ’70s. This theory helps us to understand how the media affects our understanding of reality. Schema is patterns of experiences stored as association chains, which build over the course of our lives, “a knowledge structure in the head that is used in the storage of information.” (Wagoner, 2013)

Say, I show you this picture:

Post Content Stock Image Boy
Image: Stock Photo

Your mind automatically looks at these stimuli and tries to make sense of it. It does so through recalling past experiences and drawing links between existing knowledge. This schema makes up your perceptual frame. Schema acts as a shortcut to understanding reality.

The news frame organises everyday reality for us. News inherently is presented to use through a frame dictated by someone else. They alter the frame through which reality is observed. News media repetitively engrains ideas and incorporates them into our everyday understanding by not only delivering new information but doing so through a certain “angle”. News media has to tell stories through a frame because of the commercial nature of news media. Without it, the information loses its worth.

However, of course, this happens in internet media, too. If you see common themes of content in your feeds, you start to process stimuli with those themes in mind. For example, my Tik Tok feed is full of astrology content, so when I meet a new person, I wonder what star sign they are.

Schema is how word association games function. It’s how we look at someone’s outfit and automatically assume what kind of person they are based on our own chains of association.

I’ve made starter packs for two kinds of audiences for my DA, based on my own chains of association.


Wagoner, B. (2013) ‘Bartlett’s concept of schema in reconstruction’, Theory & Psychology, 23(5), pp. 553–575. doi: 10.1177/0959354313500166.