LEARNING OBJECTIVES

• What are social knowledge structures?

• What are social beliefs, and how do they change with age?

A

nna is going on her first date since the death of her husband one year ago. She is 62 years of age and was married for 30 years, so she is extremely nervous about what to do and how to act. When her date, Eric, picks her up, he announces that he has made reservations at a nice Italian restaurant, and that afterward they will go to a late movie. Although Anna is nervous, she makes it through the date with few problems. To her delight, how she needs to act and what she should do seem to come flooding back to her without an ounce of effort.

Similar to our knowledge of how a professor should act, on her date Anna experienced the easy accessibility of a well-learned social script or social

knowledge on how to behave on a date. Social cog­nitive research has paid considerable attention to how social knowledge structures and social beliefs guide behavior. What are social knowledge struc­tures and social beliefs? They are defined in terms of how we represent and interpret the behavior of oth­ers in a social situation (Fiske, 1993). They come in many different forms. For example, we have scripted knowledge structures regarding everyday activities such as what people should do when they are going to the doctor’s office or a restaurant. We have been socialized to adhere to and believe in social rules, or how to behave in specific social situations, such as how a husband should act toward his wife.