Mental knowledge structures, known as schemas in cognitive psychology, are the constructs we use to organize and store knowledge in long-term memory. They incorporate multiple elements of information into a single framework with a specific function, such as forming a collection of generic properties to create a category. Schemas are a mental shortcut to help us quickly understand, interpret and react to the world.
A simple example of a schema for the category “sports car” might include these attributes: fast, expensive, small and shiny. Although your schemas change as you learn and gain experience, when someone mentions “sports car,” you have a general idea of what they mean.
via Can you read the minds of your learners?: The eLearning Coach.