The cognitive miser model of social perception views people as using as little processing capacity as possible and relying on assumptions and expectations. The set of assumptions and expectations about something, e.g. people who are heavily tattooed, is sometimes called a schema. I think we all know there is a lot to this, but it does overstate the case and recent research in social psychology (Ruscher at al, 2000) has stressed the importance of motivation in determining the extent to which we are cognitive misers.
This is a vital concept if we are to understand how people will react to information we provide via the web. We have to be wary of using our schema and our own motivations to interpret what we see and try to understand the likely schema and motivations of potential audiences. If we provide information on MMR and autism then it is not sufficient to give people the facts. We need to understand who the target audience is and “where they are coming from”. Very likely we have to provide the motivation to stop them relying on prior schema and become less like cognitive misers.
The web as a medium can be seen as both a challenge and an opportunity in this respect. The “cues-filtered out” model implies that we may have less opportunity to understand the schema of our audience and motivate them. On the other hand, unlike say television, the web does give the opportunity to interact and customise the way information is presented. So at least there is the potential to address a large audience in a customised way.