In the words of these authors, “a life script is a mental representation of culturally expected life events and their age norms” (Bernten and Bohn, 2009: 64). Moreover, they depict an idealized life story, which is transmitted from older generations, from master narratives, and from observations of behaviour of other people within the same community and culture. Bernsten and Bohn highlight that life scripts are part of culturally shared knowledge and, therefore, help to structure a life story, but the two are not the same. Life stories about an individual’s life course are in contrast to life scripts, which are schemata for culturally expected transitional events and their timing in the average life course (i.e. getting married and then having a child). Bernsten and Bohn explain that if a transitional event occurs on time (i.e. being a parent after getting married), they are considered positive according to cultural and societal norms. Cultural life script is a powerful concept that can be applied to future cross-cultural research. My concern is that it could be used to create overgeneralizations by oversimplifying cultural differences. Therefore, it may also be employed to explore the ways in which particular societies resist or re-contextualize imported (and often dominant) cultural scripts accordingly to their own socio-cultural dynamics.
Berntsen, D. and Bohn, A. (2009). Cultural life scripts and individual life stories. In P. Boyer and J. Wertsch (eds.), Memory in Mind and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 62-82.
Rubin, D., Berntsen, D. and Hutson, M. (2009). The normative and the personal life: Individual differences in life scripts and life story events among USA and Danish undergraduates. Memory 17, pp. 54-68.
Thomsen, D.K. and Berntsen, D. (2008). The cultural life scripts and life story chapters contributed to the reminiscence bump. Memory 16, pp. 420-435.
Berntsen, D. and Rubin, D. (2004). Cultural life scripts structure recall from autobiographical memory. Memory and Cognition, 32 (3), pp. 427-442.