Scripts and schemas

Summary of Week 1 of Social Norms, Social Change II (Coursera – University of Pennsylvania & UNICEF)

Social norms are embedded in a wider web of beliefs, values and other norms.

Schemas are cognitive structures representing knowledge about a particular phenomena, e.g. situations and events. Schema influences a variety of cognitive information, including the perception and interpretation of new information. The closer something is to its prototype (a standard conceptualisation of a particular kind, category or phenomenon), the more likely that schema would be activated. Once a schema is activated, related schemas will also be primed for activation (spreading activation) e.g. gender schemas include empirical and normative expectations about women and men.

Schemas for events or sequences of actions are called scripts. Scripts include roles and rules, as well as expectations about fulfilling the role, and how to react if the accompanying rules are violated.

Schema are supported by the cognitive biases of psychological essentialism, fundamental attribution error and situation of causes, and are maintained by confirmation bias and motivated reasoning. Thus changing behaviours requiring changing at least part of a schema. For example, eliminating domestic violence requires changing shared social schemas and norms that identify a good wife or daughter.

The most prominent models of social change are the bookkeeping model, conversion model and subtyping model which involves encountering discrepant information. However, it should be noted that core beliefs may change more slowly than norms.





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