Deutsch: Vorlage / Español: Plantilla / Português: Modelo / Français: Modèle / Italian: Modello

Template in psychology refers to a pre-existing mental framework or pattern that individuals use to organize and interpret information and experiences. These templates, also known as mental schemas or cognitive schemas, help in understanding the world and making predictions about future events based on past experiences. With other words a template is a stored pattern or model to which incoming information is matched in order to be recognized and classified.


In psychology, a template is a cognitive structure that represents organized knowledge about a particular concept or type of stimulus. These templates are built through experiences and are used to guide perception, memory, and behavior. For example, when someone encounters a new situation, they rely on their existing templates to interpret and respond to it.

Templates play a crucial role in how individuals process information. They allow for quick and efficient understanding by providing a framework within which new information can be assimilated. For instance, when meeting someone new, a person might use their template of previous social interactions to navigate the conversation. This helps in managing the vast amount of information one encounters daily by filtering and categorizing it based on past experiences.

Historically, the concept of mental schemas or templates has been extensively studied in cognitive psychology. Jean Piaget, a prominent developmental psychologist, introduced the idea of schemas as a fundamental component of cognitive development. According to Piaget, children build and refine their schemas through a process of assimilation and accommodation as they interact with their environment.

Legally and ethically, the understanding of templates in psychology has implications for fields such as forensic psychology, where an individual’s mental templates might be examined to understand behavior patterns or to assess cognitive distortions that could influence their actions.

Application Areas

Clinical Psychology: Therapists use the concept of templates to understand and treat cognitive distortions and maladaptive behaviors. By identifying and modifying harmful templates, therapists can help patients develop healthier thought patterns.

Educational Psychology: Educators leverage templates to design effective teaching strategies. Understanding students' pre-existing templates allows for the creation of educational experiences that build on existing knowledge.

Social Psychology: Researchers study how social templates influence behavior in groups and interpersonal interactions. This helps in understanding phenomena such as prejudice, stereotypes, and social norms.

Cognitive Psychology: The study of templates aids in understanding how people think, learn, and remember. This includes research on perception, memory, and problem-solving.

Well-Known Examples

Attachment Templates: In developmental psychology, attachment theories describe how early relationships with caregivers form templates for future relationships. Secure or insecure attachment patterns can influence an individual's social and emotional development.

Stereotypes: Social psychologists examine how stereotypes function as templates that shape perceptions and interactions with different social groups. These templates can lead to biases and affect behavior unconsciously.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a therapeutic approach that involves identifying and changing negative templates or schemas. For example, someone with a depressive template might interpret neutral events negatively, and CBT helps to reframe these thoughts.

Treatment and Risks

In therapy, addressing dysfunctional templates is crucial for effective treatment. Cognitive-behavioral approaches often focus on identifying and restructuring harmful templates to promote mental well-being. However, the rigidity of certain templates can pose challenges in therapy, as deeply ingrained patterns may require significant effort and time to change.

Similar Terms

  • Schema: A cognitive framework that helps organize and interpret information.
  • Mental Model: A representation of how things work in the real world, used to guide thoughts and behaviors.
  • Cognitive Map: A mental representation of spatial information.
  • Prototype: The best example or representation of a concept within a schema.



Templates in psychology are mental frameworks that help individuals organize and interpret information. They play a crucial role in perception, memory, and behavior, influencing how experiences are understood and responded to. Templates are utilized in various psychological disciplines to understand and modify thought patterns, with applications ranging from clinical therapy to educational strategies. Recognizing and addressing dysfunctional templates can significantly impact mental health and cognitive functioning.