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ELIZA is a famous computer program by Joseph Weizenbaum, which simulated a Rogerian therapist by rephrasing many of the patient's statements as questions and posing them to the patient.

It worked by simple pattern recognition and substitution of key words into canned phrases. It was so convincing, however, that there are many anecdotes about people becoming very emotionally caught up in dealing with ELIZA. All this was due to people's tendency to attach to words meanings which the computer never put there.

This became an important motivation for J. Weizenbaum to write his book Computer Power and Human Reason. From Judgment to Calculation, in which he explains the limits of computers, as he wants to make clear in people's minds that the anthropomorphic views of computers are just a reduction of the human being and any lifeform for that matter.


See also: ELIZA effect, ALICE, Turing test, Loebner prize

An early version of this article was based on material from FOLDOC's article on ELIZA, used with permission.