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People tend to know what behavior is expected of them in specific, familiar settings. A script is a person’s knowledge about the sequence of events expected in a specific setting (Schank & Abelson, 1977). Essentially, scripts are a particular kind of schema, one containing default values for the features within an event. In the restaurant example, the script's features include the props (e.g., tables, menu, food, and money), the roles to be played (e.g., customer and waiter), the opening conditions (i.e., the customers are hungry), the scenes (entering, ordering, eating, and leaving), and the results (e.g., customers are pleased, and the server made money). 

How do you act on the first day of school, when you walk into an elevator, or are at a restaurant? For example, at a restaurant in the United States, if we want the server’s attention, we try to make eye contact. In Brazil, you would make the sound “psst” to get the server’s attention. You can see the cultural differences in scripts. To an American, saying “psst” to a server might seem rude, yet to a Brazilian, trying to make eye contact might not seem an effective strategy.

Scripts are important sources of information to guide behavior in given situations. Can you imagine being in an unfamiliar situation and not having a script for how to behave? This could be uncomfortable and confusing. How could you find out about social norms in an unfamiliar culture?


This text is adapted from OpenStax, Psychology. OpenStax CNX.

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