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Hunter, Anthony


Strategic Argumentation Dialogues for Persuasion: Framework and Experiments Based on Modelling the Beliefs and Concerns of the Persuadee

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Persuasion is an important and yet complex aspect of human intelligence. When undertaken through dialogue, the deployment of good arguments, and therefore counterarguments, clearly has a significant effect on the ability to be successful in persuasion. Two key dimensions for determining whether an argument is good in a particular dialogue are the degree to which the intended audience believes the argument and counterarguments, and the impact that the argument has on the concerns of the intended audience. In this paper, we present a framework for modelling persuadees in terms of their beliefs and concerns, and for harnessing these models in optimizing the choice of move in persuasion dialogues. Our approach is based on the Monte Carlo Tree Search which allows optimization in real-time. We provide empirical results of a study with human participants showing that our automated persuasion system based on this technology is superior to a baseline system that does not take the beliefs and concerns into account in its strategy.


Epistemic Graphs for Representing and Reasoning with Positive and Negative Influences of Arguments

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

This paper introduces epistemic graphs as a generalization of the epistemic approach to probabilistic argumentation. In these graphs, an argument can be believed or disbelieved up to a given degree, thus providing a more fine--grained alternative to the standard Dung's approaches when it comes to determining the status of a given argument. Furthermore, the flexibility of the epistemic approach allows us to both model the rationale behind the existing semantics as well as completely deviate from them when required. Epistemic graphs can model both attack and support as well as relations that are neither support nor attack. The way other arguments influence a given argument is expressed by the epistemic constraints that can restrict the belief we have in an argument with a varying degree of specificity. The fact that we can specify the rules under which arguments should be evaluated and we can include constraints between unrelated arguments permits the framework to be more context--sensitive. It also allows for better modelling of imperfect agents, which can be important in multi--agent applications.


Classifying Inconsistency Measures Using Graphs

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research

The aim of measuring inconsistency is to obtain an evaluation of the imperfections in a set of formulas, and this evaluation may then be used to help decide on some course of action (such as rejecting some of the formulas, resolving the inconsistency, seeking better sources of information, etc). A number of proposals have been made to define measures of inconsistency. Each has its rationale. But to date, it is not clear how to delineate the space of options for measures, nor is it clear how we can classify measures systematically. To address these problems, we introduce a general framework for comparing syntactic measures of inconsistency. It is based on the notion of an inconsistency graph for each knowledgebase (a bipartite graph with a set of vertices representing formulas in the knowledgebase, a set of vertices representing minimal inconsistent subsets of the knowledgebase, and edges representing that a formula belongs to a minimal inconsistent subset). We then show that various measures can be computed using the inconsistency graph. Then we introduce abstractions of the inconsistency graph and use them to construct a hierarchy of syntactic inconsistency measures. Furthermore, we extend the inconsistency graph concept with a labeling that extends the hierarchy to include some other types of inconsistency measures.


Polynomial-time Updates of Epistemic States in a Fragment of Probabilistic Epistemic Argumentation (Technical Report)

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Probabilistic epistemic argumentation allows for reasoning about argumentation problems in a way that is well founded by probability theory. Epistemic states are represented by probability functions over possible worlds and can be adjusted to new beliefs using update operators. While the use of probability functions puts this approach on a solid foundational basis, it also causes computational challenges as the amount of data to process depends exponentially on the number of arguments. This leads to bottlenecks in applications such as modelling opponent's beliefs for persuasion dialogues. We show how update operators over probability functions can be related to update operators over much more compact representations that allow polynomial-time updates. We discuss the cognitive and probabilistic-logical plausibility of this approach and demonstrate its applicability in computational persuasion.


Impact of Argument Type and Concerns in Argumentation with a Chatbot

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Conversational agents, also known as chatbots, are versatile tools that have the potential of being used in dialogical argumentation. They could possibly be deployed in tasks such as persuasion for behaviour change (e.g. persuading people to eat more fruit, to take regular exercise, etc.) However, to achieve this, there is a need to develop methods for acquiring appropriate arguments and counterargument that reflect both sides of the discussion. For instance, to persuade someone to do regular exercise, the chatbot needs to know counterarguments that the user might have for not doing exercise. To address this need, we present methods for acquiring arguments and counterarguments, and importantly, meta-level information that can be useful for deciding when arguments can be used during an argumentation dialogue. We evaluate these methods in studies with participants and show how harnessing these methods in a chatbot can make it more persuasive.


Non-monotonic Reasoning in Deductive Argumentation

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Argumentation is a non-monotonic process. This reflects the fact that argumentation involves uncertain information, and so new information can cause a change in the conclusions drawn. However, the base logic does not need to be non-monotonic. Indeed, most proposals for structured argumentation use a monotonic base logic (e.g. some form of modus ponens with a rule-based language, or classical logic). Nonetheless, there are issues in capturing defeasible reasoning in argumentation including choice of base logic and modelling of defeasible knowledge. And there are insights and tools to be harnessed for research in non-monontonic logics. We consider some of these issues in this paper.


Argument Harvesting Using Chatbots

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Much research in computational argumentation assumes that arguments and counterarguments can be obtained in some way. Yet, to improve and apply models of argument, we need methods for acquiring them. Current approaches include argument mining from text, hand coding of arguments by researchers, or generating arguments from knowledge bases. In this paper, we propose a new approach, which we call argument harvesting, that uses a chatbot to enter into a dialogue with a participant to get arguments and counterarguments from him or her. Because it is automated, the chatbot can be used repeatedly in many dialogues, and thereby it can generate a large corpus. We describe the architecture of the chatbot, provide methods for managing a corpus of arguments and counterarguments, and an evaluation of our approach in a case study concerning attitudes of women to participation in sport.


Towards a Unified Framework for Syntactic Inconsistency Measures

AAAI Conferences

A number of proposals have been made to define inconsistency measures. Each has its rationale. But to date, it is not clear how to delineate the space of options for measures, nor is it clear how we can classify measures systematically. In this paper, we introduce a general framework for comparing syntactic inconsistency measures. It uses the construction of an inconsistency graph for each knowledgebase. We then introduce abstractions of the inconsistency graph and use the hierarchy of the abstractions to classify a range of inconsistency measures.



Probabilistic Reasoning with Abstract Argumentation Frameworks

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research

Abstract argumentation offers an appealing way of representing and evaluating arguments and counterarguments. This approach can be enhanced by considering probability assignments on arguments, allowing for a quantitative treatment of formal argumentation. In this paper, we regard the assignment as denoting the degree of belief that an agent has in an argument being acceptable. While there are various interpretations of this, an example is how it could be applied to a deductive argument. Here, the degree of belief that an agent has in an argument being acceptable is a combination of the degree to which it believes the premises, the claim, and the derivation of the claim from the premises. We consider constraints on these probability assignments, inspired by crisp notions from classical abstract argumentation frameworks and discuss the issue of probabilistic reasoning with abstract argumentation frameworks. Moreover, we consider the scenario when assessments on the probabilities of a subset of the arguments are given and the probabilities of the remaining arguments have to be derived, taking both the topology of the argumentation framework and principles of probabilistic reasoning into account. We generalise this scenario by also considering inconsistent assessments, i.e., assessments that contradict the topology of the argumentation framework. Building on approaches to inconsistency measurement, we present a general framework to measure the amount of conflict of these assessments and provide a method for inconsistency-tolerant reasoning.