The idea of a “schema” was originally developed from cognitive therapy, which suggests that early life experiences have a major impact on later psychological development.
These early life experiences create core beliefs (i.e. the overall view we have of ourselves, others, and the world), which impact thoughts and reactions in specific situations. These patterns of how people process information are referred to as “schemas.”
Negative schemas are activated when people encounter a situation that resembles the original conditions of the learned schema, even if it is only remotely similar.