Fundamentals of Computer Science I (CSC-151.02 2000F)

More on Higher-Order Procedures

In this reading and laboratory, you will continue your investigation into procedures that take procedures as parameters or return procedures as results. We call such procedures higher-order procedures.

Built-in Procedures

We've already seen that Scheme includes some built-in higher order procedures.

The map procedure takes as arguments a procedure and one or more lists and builds a new list whose contents are the result of applying the procedure to the corresponding elements of each list. (That is, the ith element of the result list is the result of applying the procedure to the ith element of each source list.)

The call-with-values procedure takes as arguments two procedures. The first has a result that contains multiple values and the second expects that many values as arguments.

But Scheme has many other built-in higher-order procedures. You can read about many of them in section 6.4 of the Scheme report, which is available through the DrScheme Help Desk.


One of the most important built-in higher-order procedures is apply. which takes a procedure and a list as arguments and invokes the procedure, giving it the elements of the list as its arguments:

> (apply string=? (list "foo" "foo"))
> (apply * (list 3 4 5 6))
> (apply append (list (list 'a 'b 'c) (list 'd) (list 'e 'f)
                       null (list 'g 'h 'i)))
(a b c d e f g h i)

Operator Sections

An operator section is a procedure that is derived from another procedure by ``filling in'' some but not all of its arguments. For instance, the double procedure defined by

(define double
  (lambda (n)
    (* 2 n)))

qualifies as an operator section, since it fills in the first argument to the * procedure with the particular value 2. Operator sections are often used as arguments to higher-order procedures such as list-of, tallier, and generate-list from the first lab on procedures as values.

For instance, once we've written the tallier procedure that generates a procedure that can tally values in a list that meet a precidate, we could construct a procedure that counts the number of occurrences of the symbol 'n/a (``not available'') in a given list as (tallier (lambda (whatever) (eq? 'n/a whatever))). Here the value of the lambda-expression is an operator section of eq?, with the first argument filled in with the particular value 'n/a.

We can even define higher-order procedures to construct operator sections for us. Such procedures are not primitives, but they are easily defined -- Let's use the name left-section for a higher-order procedure that takes a procedure of two arguments and a value to drop in as its first argument, and returns the relevant operator section:

;;; Procedure:
;;;   left-section
;;; Parameters:
;;;   proc, A procedure with arity 2
;;;   param1, The first parameter to that procedure
;;; Purpose:
;;;   Fills in one parameter to the procedure.
;;; Produces:
;;;   A new procedure of arity 1 that applys proc to param1 and
;;;   its parameter.
;;; Preconditions:
;;;   proc is a procedure of arity 2
;;;   param1 is of appropriate type for the first parameter of proc
;;; Postconditions:
;;;   The result procedure expects a parameter of the same type as
;;;   the second parameter of proc.
(define left-section
  (lambda (proc param1)
    (lambda (expected)
      (proc param1 expected))))

So we could define double as (left-section * 2) and (lambda (whatever) (eq? 'n/a whatever)) as (left-section eq? 'n/a).


To filter a list is to examine each of its elements in turn, retaining some for a new list while eliminating others. For instance, given a list of integers, the following procedure filters it to remove the negative ones:

;;; Procedure:
;;;   remove-negatives
;;; Parameters:
;;;   A list of numbers
;;; Purpose:
;;;   Removes negative numbers from the list.
;;; Produces:
;;;   A list containing no negative numbers.
;;; Preconditions:
;;;   The input list contains only numbers [Unverified]
;;; Postconditions:
;;;   The output list contains all non-negative numbers in the original
;;;     list (and in the same order).
;;;   The output list contains no other numbers.
(define remove-negatives
  (lambda (ls)
    (cond ((null? ls) null)
          ((negative? (car ls)) (remove-negatives (cdr ls)))
          (else (cons (car ls) (remove-negatives (cdr ls)))))))

We could write similar procedures to remove the whitespace characters from a list of characters, or to exclude any occurrences of the symbol 'n/a from a list:

(define remove-whitespace
  (lambda (ls)
    (cond ((null? ls) null)
          ((char-whitespace? (car ls)) (remove-whitespace (cdr ls)))
          (else (cons (car ls) (remove-whitespace (cdr ls)))))))

(define remove-n/a-symbols
  (lambda (ls)
    (cond ((null? ls) null)
          ((eq? 'n/a (car ls)) (remove-n/a-symbols (cdr ls)))
          (else (cons (car ls) (remove-n/a-symbols (cdr ls)))))))

Similar filtering procedures occur so frequently that it's useful to have a higher-order procedure to construct them. Using the method described in the first lab on procedures as values, we can easily define such a procedure:

(define remove
  (lambda (predicate)
    (letrec ((recurrer (lambda (ls)
                         (cond ((null? ls) null)
                               ((predicate (car ls)) (recurrer (cdr ls)))
                               (else (cons (car ls) (recurrer (cdr ls))))))))

(define remove-negatives (remove negative?))
(define remove-whitespace (remove char-whitespace?))
(define remove-n/a-symbols (remove (left-section eq? 'n/a)))


October 30, 1997 (John Stone or Henry Walker)

March 17, 2000 (John Stone)

Thursday, 2 November 2000 (Sam Rebelsky)

Disclaimer Often, these pages were created "on the fly" with little, if any, proofreading. Any or all of the information on the pages may be incorrect. Please contact me if you notice errors.

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