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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00154

Using Cognitive Agents to Train Negotiation Skills

 Christopher A. Stevens1*, Jeroen Daamen1, Emma Gaudrain1,  Tom Renkema1, Jordi Top1, Fokie Cnossen1 and  Niels Taatgen1
  • 1Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Groningen, Netherlands

Training negotiation is difficult because it is a complex, dynamic activity that involves multiple parties. It is often not clear how to create situations in which students can practice negotiation or how to measure students’ progress. Some have begun to address these issues by creating artificial software agents with which students can train. These agents have the advantage that they can be “reset,” and played against multiple times. This allows students to learn from their mistakes and try different strategies. However, these agents are often based on normative theories of how negotiators should conduct themselves, not necessarily how people actually behave in negotiations. Here, we take a step toward addressing this gap by developing an agent grounded in a cognitive architecture, ACT-R. This agent contains a model of theory-of-mind, the ability of humans to reason about the mental states of others. It uses this model to try to infer the strategy of the opponent and respond accordingly. In a series of experiments, we show that this agent replicates some aspects of human performance, is plausible to human negotiators, and can lead to learning gains in a small-scale negotiation task.

Keywords: theory-of-mind, negotiation, Cognitive Modeling, Strategic games, training

Received: 18 Aug 2017; Accepted: 30 Jan 2018.

Edited by:

George Kachergis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands

Reviewed by:

Stefan Kopp, Bielefeld University, Germany
Henrik Svensson, University of Skövde, Sweden  

Copyright: © 2018 Stevens, Daamen, Gaudrain, Renkema, Top, Cnossen and Taatgen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Christopher A. Stevens, University of Groningen, Faculty of Science and Engineering, PO Box 407, Groningen, 9700 AK, Groningen, Netherlands, cstevens107@gmail.com