Scripts and Schemas

Scripts specify a structure with variable "slots" that need to be filled with values; a schema is a high-level notion that provides a mental framework for organizing broad information and establishing connections between diverse concepts and features. If none are given, a set of predetermined assumptions and defaults will be applied. "Restaurants" scripting is an example of a script used to organize a series of repeated actions. Schemas and scripts reflect the organization of ideas and concepts from the inside.

What are Scripts and Schemas?

The knowledge structures we can rely on to interpret what is not uttered or written automatically (yet transmitted) are essential. These frameworks act like habitual patterns from our past that help us make sense of the present. A schema is the most generic name for this kind of pattern. A pre-existing mental framework, or "schema," is a way of organizing information. When the structure of the schema remains unchanging and unmovable, we refer to it as a frame, as we did before. Dynamic schemas are commonly referred to as "scripts" when discussing these types. We call a "script" a "pre-existing knowledge structure" that includes sequences of events.

In order to create narratives, we rely on scripts. We have standard operating procedures (SOPs) for various situations, such as visits to the dentist, the hairdresser, the theatre, and the supermarket. By this logic, a script is only a shorthand for identifying a predetermined pattern of events. Most scripts do not explicitly explain details because they are believed to be known.

Types of Schemas

Major types are −

  • Conceptual "person-centric " schemas are created with a specific user in mind. The schema you make for your friend can include details about their physical characteristics, routines, personality traits, and tastes.

  • People's social schemas include knowledge of how others behave in generalized social settings.

  • Self-schemas are primarily concerned with the acquisition of personal insight. A person's current self-awareness and anticipated future self-knowledge can contribute to this.

  • Event schemas are primarily concerned with regulating how people react to specific events. Having this laid out before is like having a screenplay written that tells one exactly what to do and say in any given situation.

How Schemas Change?

The transformation of pre-existing mental models is integral to the assimilation and accommodation processes. Assimilation is the act of incorporating newly acquired knowledge into previously held assumptions. As people learn new things and experiences, their old ideas may change or be replaced entirely. One's mental representations, or schemas, may be more pliable and open to change when one is young, but as one age, this may change. People's ideas about the world are relatively easy to change, even when there is much evidence to the contrary. When more and more evidence shows that a person's underlying conceptual framework (or "schema") needs to be changed, a gradual adaptation process may begin.

How Schemas Affect Learning?

Schemas can also be useful in the realms of education and learning. Consider the following as an illustration −

  • The mental frameworks we have established direct our focus. Information that confirms one's beliefs has a greater chance of being processed and remembered by the human brain.

  • A person's learning velocity is also influenced by the complexity and number of their previous schemas. More of what you learn will stick with you if it fits into the frameworks you already have in your head.

  • With the help of schemas, life is simplified. Mental schemas can help with learning about the world. Any new information might be classified and filed away by comparing it to previously learned information and existing schemas.

Script Theory

Like a schema, a script is a mental construct that consists of a succession of ideas, in this case, the steps to take to accomplish something. Relevant persons, places, and things may also be included. A script is "a collection of expectations about what will happen next in a well-understood circumstance," as one description puts it. A mental picture plus caption reflecting the action sequences, people, and physical items found in a scene or a coherent series of events expected by an individual in a given context, engaging him either as participant or spectator.

A scene is the setting for implementing the sequence of events detailed in a script. Tomkins states, "The scene, an event with a clear beginning and finish, is the fundamental building block of my script theory." The plot of one's life is the sum of the interrelated series of events that make up that person's entire life experience. On the other hand, the script is more about the person's rules for predicting, interpreting, responding to and controlling a larger number of events than it is about life's overall scenes or stories.

There are four distinct types of scripts that serve different purposes: episodic (for dealing with specific occurrences), instrumental (for applying and showcasing specific skills), personal (for articulating one's aspirations and ambitions), and definitional (for object recognition). Schank argues that scripts are like schemata, another type of memory construct, but that memory is structured around episodes rather than semantic categories. Considering this, Schank supports "teaching by doing" and other forms of experiential education. Throughout one's life, new and existing scripts are created and modified in response to one's experiences.

One does what is expected of him in a restaurant: he chooses a seat, sits down, waits for the waiter to take his order, and then eats. Since everyone acts according to the restaurant's predetermined roles and norms, he never has to persuade the waiter or the chef to serve him. One could make the same argument for a story set in a restaurant. When you know what to do in any situation, you do not have to think as hard.


Some cognitive researchers have proposed that human knowledge comprises low-level units that comprise the ideas of schemas or scripts; hence, the script theory provides a cognitive construct like schemas that is open to the same objections. Furthermore, the acquisition of scripts needs to be thoroughly explained by script theory.


Schemas are massively designed knowledge systems. The script outlines events. Your restaurant screenplay has sections for setting the scene (hunger, entering restaurant), introducing characters (diners and wait staff), describing the setting (menus, cutlery, money, etc.), summarising events (diners are fed, the restaurant is paid), and outlining the storyline (restaurant generates money) (viewing the menu, ordering, being served, paying the bill).

Updated on: 02-May-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started