Qualitative Process Theory

Kenneth D. Forbus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Objects more, collide, flow, bend, heat up, cool down, stretch, compress, and boil. These and other things that cause changes in objects over time are intuitively characterized as processes. To understand commonsense physical reasoning and make programs that interact with the physical world as well as people do we must understand qualitative reasoning about processes, when they will occur, their effects, and when they will stop. Qualitative process theory defines a simple notion of physical process that appears useful as a language in which to write dynamical theories. Reasoning about processes also motivates a new qualitative representation for quantity in terms of inequalities, called the quantity space. This paper describes the basic concepts of qualitative process theory several different kinds of reasoning that can be performed with them, and discusses its implications for causal reasoning. Several extended examples illustrate the utility of the theory, including figuring out that a boiler can blow up, that an oscillator with friction will eventually stop, and how to say that you can pull with a string, but not push with it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationReadings in Qualitative Reasoning About Physical Systems
PublisherElsevier Inc
Number of pages42
ISBN (Print)1558600957, 9781483214474
StatePublished - Sep 17 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)

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