Script Theory

The Script Theory of Schank and Abelson was an attempt, in large part, to explain why computers were so bad at basic comprehension of text. While some cognitive theorists hypothesized that computers needed a more subtle understanding of language, Schank and Abelson went the opposite direction: machines were lousy at language because they lacked an understanding of the “scripts” that make up daily existence.

Restaurant Script Image
A restaurant script broken into action “primitives” from Schank and Abelson 1975.

The classic example is the “restaurant” script. You start to tell someone “So I went to a restaurant, and the waitress is bringing me dessert…” What does a normal person intuit?

The assumption is that you came an were seated, have eaten a meal and now are having dessert. The story you tell only deals with deviations from the known script.

A computer on the other hand is likely to look at the article “the” in front of “waitress” and wonder where the heck this waitress came from and why you are not calling her “a” waitress when you haven’t introduced her to the story yet.

Schank and Abelson built a language of semantic primitives that could represent most common scripts and help computers with linguistic interpretation.

Script Theory is related to Minsky’s Frame Theory, but script theory is more specifically focused on the discovery and encoding of cultural scripts. (correct???)


The original paper (pdf)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s