What are social scripts?

Social scripts inform people about what will happen in a certain situation and spell out the implicit or unspoken social rules.

They can include things such as:​

  • What will they/others do?​
  • What do they need to bring?​
  • Who will they meet?​
  • What will the situation be like?​
  • What will the energy be like?​
  • What is expected of them?​
  • What is the purpose?

Social scripts should be provided beforehand and/or at the start of the interaction. It is important to note that a social script should be neutral. This means you are not dictating to people what they must do in a situation but rather uncovering any When an idea or rule is suggested but has not been said or written. Something people are expected to understand without being told.implicit social rules or cues.

For example, a Social script might say “the space is usually quiet” which is neutral, while “You must be quiet” imposes a non-neutral directive or tells someone how they must behave. In this example, you are trying to explain that people are not forced to be quiet, but it is useful for people to know the space tends to be a quiet one.

Examples of social scripts

This is an example of a section from Brimbank Park. The image is a photo of two children sitting in a timber cubby house. The text says, "I can build a cubby. I can play in the cubby. I can do this with my friends or family. I can go here if I need to be by myself." Click here to look at a list of social scripts for different parks by Parks Victoria.

Two children in a cubby with text about playing.

The next example is from Amaze and is about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The first image is a young person sitting on a chair with their support person standing nearby. The text says, "I will take a seat in the waiting area. I need to remember not to sit too close to other people. The Pharmacist will call my name."

The second image is a pharmacist talking to the young person. The text says, "The Pharmacist will say my name. We could do an elbow bump. Or I can just say hello back. I can choose to have a support person with me, or my support person can wait outside the room."

Click here to see the social script in full on Amaze's website.

Amaze NDS pharmacy COVID 19 vaccine social script

Both these examples have been written in first person, e.g. "I will." But social scripts can also be written in second person. "You should bring…", "You can ask questions."

The difference between social scripts and access keys

An access key is about what is in a space, highlighting the key aspects of a building, online space or venue and how you might use such a space while a social script makes the implicit rules of a situation explicit. It details all the un-spoken parts of a situation. Both of these things can go hand in hand.

For example, when you book a ticket to the cinema you get a version of a social script in the instructions that say something like:

  1. Print out your ticket
  2. Bring your ticket to the ticket booth
  3. The staff at the booth will scan your ticket
  4. The staff will direct you to your cinema

You might also find social script ideas in notes such as “The cinema is a quiet place”.

On the other hand, an access key for the cinema would outline the actual space of the cinema such as how many seats there are and where the accessible ones are. Or where people can find the toilets or candy bar.

Access keys and social scripts also might cover similar things in some aspects and that is okay as well.

Previous: Access keys

Next: Actions, asking questions