Contract Schemas

25 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021 Last revised: 8 Jul 2021

See all articles by Roseanna Sommers

Roseanna Sommers

University of Michigan Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 16, 2021


This review draws on the notion of contract schemas to characterize what ordinary people think is happening when they enter into contractual arrangements. It proposes that contracts are schematically represented as written documents filled with impenetrable text containing hidden strings, which are routinely signed without comprehension. This cognitive template, activated whenever people encounter objects with these characteristic features, confers certain default assumptions, associations, and expectancies. A review of the literature suggests that contract schemas supply (a) the assumption that terms will be enforced as written, (b) the feeling that one is obligated to perform, and (c) the sense that one has forfeited rights. The picture that emerges from the psychology of contracts literature suggests that laypeople expect the law to find consent in situations where they would prefer it did not, and where it in fact does not.

Keywords: consent, schemas, contracts, psychology

Suggested Citation

Sommers, Roseanna, Contract Schemas (January 16, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Roseanna Sommers (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
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