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USC AI Research May Lead To Virtual Negotiators

USC AI Research

Over the last few years, Jonathan Gratch, Director of Virtual Humans Research at University of Southern California, has been partnering with USC Marshall School of Business to integrate virtual humans into negotiation. In order to do this, it is necessary to understand humans’ gut-level responses to physical cues.

At the International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS) in May, USC researchers Jonathan Gratch, Rens Hoegen and Geota Stratou debuted a paper that indicated that people who smile during victories increase the odds of their opponent working harder to beat them in the future.

These findings correspond with Gratch’s previous studies. According to Gratch, “We think that emotion is the enemy of reason. But the truth is that emotion is our way of assigning value to things. Without it, we’d be faced with limitless choices.

The AAMAS study involved 370 participants playing a game via Skype, wherein the players determine whether to “split” or “steal” a pot of money. Should both participants choose “split,” they each get half of the pot. If one chooses “split” and the other chooses “steal,” the “stealer” gets the money. But if both parties choose to steal, they both lose.

Throughout the game, the researchers recorded the players’ reactions and used emotion-tracking software that tracks subtle facial movements. When those who stole successfully smiled after their victories, their opponents were more likely to steal from them in the future. Those who smiled when they lost, however, were more likely to see cooperation from their opponents in future rounds.

Gratch hopes these findings will allow him to understand the emotional nuances of negotiation in a way that he can integrate into AI. The eventual goal is to build AI that can perceive and convey the same physical emotional nuances that humans can.

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