Script theory was first introduced and presented by Silvan Tomkins in 19541) as an extension of his affect theory2), but was further developed3) in late 1970s by Roger Schank. Script theory is an extension of schema theory, orientated on explaining of the structure of knowledge, especially on representation of complex event sequences.
A script is a mental construct like schema, but which consist of a sequence of actions or events necessary to achieve a goal. It can also include relevant people, locations or objects. There are several similar definitions of scripts like:
This sequence of actions contained in a script is then applied in a situation also called a scene. As Tomkins explains,
Scripts can be defined into four different types8):
According to Schank, scripts are just like schemata, also a memory construct, yet he believes that memory is organized around one's personal experiences (episodic) rather than categories of meaning. Schank is therefore a proponent of learning by doing and experiential learning. New scripts are developed during lifetime and old scripts can change as the result of new experiences.
The most cited example for a script is Schank's9) example of a restaurant script. When in a restaurant, one behaves according to restaurant script: he finds a free place, sits, waits for the waiter to take his order and finally eats his meal. He does not have to convince the waiter and the cook to feed him every time he comes to the restaurant since they are all behaving in accordance with the restaurant schema and assigned roles. The same can be said if one reads about a situation in a restaurant. Knowing the particular script which is to be used in a situation results in less required thinking and mental activity.
The script theory introduces a cognitive construct similar to schemata, which is subjected to same criticisms since some cognitive researchers suggest human knowledge is composed of low-level units which actually form the concepts of schemata or scripts. Script theory also does not offer much explanation on how scripts can be acquired.
TIP: Script Theory (Schank). Retrieved March 15, 2011.
Erasmus, A. C, E. Bishoff, and G. G. Rousseau. The potential of using script theory in consumer behaviour research. Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences/Tydskrif vir Gesinsekologie en Verbruikerswetenskappe 30, no. 0 (2010).
Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning. Schema And Script Theory. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
Schank, R.C. & Abelson, R. Scripts, Plans, Goals, and Understanding. Hillsdale, NJ: Earlbaum Assoc, 1977.
Schank, R.C. Reading and Understanding. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. 1982.
Schank, R.C. Explanation Patterns: Understanding Mechanically and Creatively. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1986.
Ellis, Donald G. From language to communication. Routledge, 1999.