Minsky, M. 1977. Frame theory. In P.N. Johnson-Laird and P.C.Wason, Thinking: Reasings in Cognitive Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 355-376.


Minsky, M. 1977. Frame theory. In P.N. Johnson-Laird and P.C.Wason, Thinking: Reasings in Cognitive Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 355-376.


As the author says: “Here is the essence of the frame theory: When one encounters a new situation (or makes a substantial change in one’s view of a problem), one selects from memory a structure called a frame. This is a remembered framework to be adapted to fit reality by changing details as necessary.” A frame is data structure for representing the stereotyped situation (for example being in the certain kind of living room). Any frame is connected with some kind of information (for example about how to use the frame, what is going to be next, etc). The frame can be imagined as a network of nodes and relations. Top levels of this frame fixed and represent the are always true about supposed situation (personally I think it shall be said not always but with the biggest probability comparing any other knowledge about supposed situation) and lower levels have many terminals – “slots”, that must be filled with specific instances or data. Each terminal can specify the conditions its assignments must meet.

As the author says: “(…) collections of related frames are linked together into frame systems. The effects of important actions are mirrored by transformations between the frames of a system. These are used to make certain kinds of calculations economical, to represent changes of emphasis and attention, and for effectivness of imaginery”.

For example for visual scene analysis, the same scene seen from different perspective is represented by different frames which however are connected with relations of the above mentioned, relevant transformations (in case of non visual kinds of frames of a system differences between frames can represent particular actions, cause effect relation or changes in conceptual viewpoint). Author underline that the crucial point that it makes possible to coordinate information gathered from different viewpoints is that different frames of the system share the same terminals.

Strong point of Minsky’s theory is that it takes into account different expectations and different presumptions. A frame’s terminals are normally already filled with default assignments. Thus a frame m ay contain a many details whose supposition is not specially warranted by the situation. These have many issues in representing general information, most likely cases, techniques for by passing logic and to make useful generalizations. These default assignments are not strongly connected with the subject frame (its terminals), they can be understood as “variables” that described rather the particular situation that the “main stream” frame.

The above main presumption of the frame theory are verified later on in the article in particular cases. The way how knowledge is acquired, represented and organized for future computation according to cognitive science is strongly associated with concepts presented in Minsky’s paper.


The phenomena of cognitive sciences and their up going popularity is they moved forward the border where non scientific discussion starts about human being. By non scientific discussion I mean the discussion where the distance between empiric verified presumption and the philosophical conclusion is really far. Cognitive sciences have made the difference much shorter on many fields oh our knowledge about human beings, about ourselves (about cognition). Especially on the ground of two main pillars of cognitive sciences, AI and psychology, many authors have published their revolutionary articles where bigger and bigger pieces of strict, computable or almost computable, deterministic (in probabilistic way) and  causality knowledge about the mind’s abilities have been presented. Moreover many of such hypothesis are verified from empiric point of view (psychology) and many from biological point of view (neurosciences). Big spots of such knowledge has appeared after famous 1956. One of these important articles was the one presented in 1977 by Marvin Minsky “the pope of AI”. The author described the frames theory, which explained the mechanism of acquisition of knowledge and its representation in way allowing for its potential computable transformation giving the same effects as in the intelligent minds.


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