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From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schema_(psychology)

In psychology and cognitive science, a schema (plural schemata or schemas) describes an organized pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them.[1] It can also be described as a mental structure of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some aspect of the world, or a system of organizing and perceiving new information.[2] Schemata influence attention and the absorption of new knowledge: people are more likely to notice things that fit into their schema, while re-interpreting contradictions to the schema as exceptions or distorting them to fit. Schemata have a tendency to remain unchanged, even in the face of contradictory information. Schemata can help in understanding the world and the rapidly changing environment.[3] People can organize new perceptions into schemata quickly as most situations do not require complex thought when using schema, since automatic thought is all that is required. [3]

People use schemata to organize current knowledge and provide a framework for future understanding. Examples of schemata include academic rubrics, social schemas, stereotypes, social roles, scripts, worldviews, and archetypes. In Piaget's theory of development, children adopt a series of schemata to understand the world.

I wonder what the opposite concept to schema?

Btw, I guess the schema in database theory is related to the one in psychology. How is it related, if any?

thanks.

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There are approaches in cognitive psychology that either emphasize top down or bottom up perceptual processes, or in some cases a combination of two. Psychology began using those terms after being radically influenced by the information processing framework. So I think that if a proper distinction is to be made, it would be better to put it in those terms namely, top down vs bottom up processing.

Having said that schemas are associated with top down processes as they involve the influence of knowledge on perception. So an opposite concept to schemas, if this is the right way to put it, would possibly be the concept of affordances which is associated with bottom up processes. James Gibson in his theory of affordances states that a sufficient amount of information is contained in the environment itself. Affordances in this sense, are "action possibilities" latent in the environment and are objectively measured contrary to schemas which are subjective by definition

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