Negotiation Support System for which I received a (NWO-STW VICI grant) in 2007. With this ongoing project I aim to support human negotiators. Over time various fantastic people have joined the team for some years. With them I study ways to elicit information from negotiation parties about their preference profiles and underlying concerns. Qualitative reasoning about the profiles and concerns are studied as that should make it easier to explain the reasoning to the human user. As emotions sometimes play an important role in negotiation, a training environment has been created to learn how to deal with emotions in negotiations.
The Pocket Negotiator project is divided into 4 sub-projects dealing with different aspects of a negotiation support system. Click here to investigate a prototype of the Pocket Negotiator.
Qualitative Negotiation Models
Existing negotiation support systems are based almost exclusively on quantitative models of preferences. It is however difficult to elicit such models from users, while complex utility functions also have serious computational limitations. Qualitative preference models in many regards would provide a better correspondence with human cognitive representations. This would allow a human user to more naturally interact with a machine negotiating on his/her behalf. The candidate’s research will focus on the design of an expressive qualitative preference language and associated techniques for using this language in negotiation. The techniques that need to be developed concern the elicitation of qualitative preferences, the reasoning with possibly incomplete qualitative preferences, and associated strategies for negotiation. The research has been performed in close collaboration with other sub-projects with the aim of developing a negotiation support system.
This subproject resulted in a PhD thesis by Wietske Visser.
The project was supervised by Prof. dr. Catholijn Jonker and Dr. Koen Hindriks.
Emotion and Interaction in Negotiation
The way people interact with each other in negotiation plays a major role in the negotiation process and in the quality of the negotiation outcome. The prospect of negotiation elicits emotions in the participants, so does the interaction with the other party. Therefore, the project focuses on the design of a knowledge-based system to support User-Opponent Interaction in the negotiation. The project will look at emotions with the aim to establish an emotive model that relates negotiation relevant emotions to concerns and effects, and to establish a tool and technique to establish user’s and opponent’s emotion and sources during and after negotiation, and finally to develop ways to make user aware of the role of emotions as part of a negotiation support tool. In addition, the project looks at conflict handling styles in order to establish an instrument to estimate the conflict-handing styles and mental models of negotiation of both user and the opponent, and create tools to explain this to the user. Work also focuses on how users can cope with emotions in the negotiations context.
Joost Broekens has first worked as a postdoc on this project, supervised by Prof. dr. Catholijn Jonker and Dr. Willem-Paul Brinkman. During the project he developed a training tool for job interviews, that raises the awareness of the trainee to the emotional and collaborative effect his way of interaction can have on the conversational partner. Furthermore, Joost developed the AffectButton that is an easy to use tool to elicite the emotional state of the user and that can also be used to get information from the user about the emotional state of other people. Later Joost joined our tenured staff in which capacity he continues to work on affective computing and in which negotiation remains in his interests
Man machine interaction and negotiation
The idea is to support users in the negotiation process with a special designed computer support system. Such a system should have knowledge of the domain of negotiation, user profile, user interaction, state of mind of user and opponent and focus of attention, to support the user in an adaptive, user-friendly, intelligent way. In order to increase the effectiveness as well as to enhance the user’s experience, it is important that a negotiation support system is able to provide feedback and explanation to its user. The project’s research focuses on the development of human-computer interaction tools and techniques to effectively elicit a user’s preferences and to explain the negotiation process and the functionality provided by a support system. The user interaction is supported by a specially designed Wizard. To model such a system and to test the first prototypes we performed usability and Wizard-of-Oz studies.
The project resulted in a PhD thesis by Alina Huldtgren, who during the project published under the name Alina Pommeranz. Alna was supervised by Prof. dr. Catholijn Jonker and Dr. ir. Pascal Wiggers
One of the functions of a negotiation support system is to advice its user what offers s/he should propose to an opponent in a negotiation. Such a system would also need to be able to assist its user in assessing offers received from an opponent: Should the user accept an offer? If not, what counter-offer should be made? In order to develop such a system, several fundamental questions need to be addressed: Which strategies should be selected for effective negotiation? How can information about an opponent be used to increase the performance in a negotiation? How easy is it to exploit a negotiation strategy? Which techniques are needed to deal with complex negotiation domains and preferences in a computationally effective way? The project’s research focuses on the design of effective negotiation strategies for automated negotiation. Techniques based on heuristic search and machine learning such as Bayesian networks are used to design and improve existing strategies from the literature. The research includes the setup of an experimental methodology for assessing the effectiveness of implemented strategies. The resulting techniques will also be evaluated in the particular domain of job contract negotiation. As part of this project we initiated and are still involved in the annual Automated Negotiating Agents Competition ANAC.
The project resulted in a PhD thesis by Tim Baarslag and was supervised by Prof. dr. Catholijn Jonker and Dr. Koen Hindriks.