# Difference Between Schema and Mental Model

What are the differences between a schema and a mental model? Do they overlap, or is the mental model a subtype of the schema?

• The term 'schema' refers to a particular kind of thing in Cog Sci research, but 'mental model' seems under-specified. Can you clarify what you mean (maybe with an example, or citation)? Aug 18 '14 at 11:32
• Gentner, D. (2002). Mental models, Psychology of. In N. J. Smelser & P. B. Bates (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (pp. 9683-9687). Amsterdam:Elsevier Science. Aug 18 '14 at 13:31

Schemata are said to account for generic concepts and the meaning of those concepts. Schemata are generally said to represent knowledge'' however, it is argued that the theory struggles to account for specific knowledge. Most theorists seem to agree schemata are meant to represent generic concepts - not specific facts or information. I would recommend "Schemata: the building blocks of cognition" by Rumelhart if you want to read more about this. Category theory might also be interesting to look into just to get an idea about the types of things schemata represent.
One example I like is the following: You can have the concept of a house somewhere in memory. When you are shown a photo of any house or go into a house, even if you haven't seen it before, you still recognise it as a house. You can recognise this because you have one or more schemata which have encoded the concept'' of what a house is.