Uncertainty, Utility, and Misunderstanding: A Decision-Theoretic Perspective on Grounding in Conversational Systems

Tim Paek
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305

Eric Horvitz
Microsoft Research
Redmond, Washington 98052

Author email: paek@psych.stanford.edu, horvitz@microsoft.com


Uncertainty plays a central role in the handling of misunderstanding in dialog. People engaged in conversation typically take a sequence of actions to establish and maintain mutual understanding-a process referred to as grounding. We explore representations and control strategies for grounding utterances founded on performing explicit probabilistic inference about failures in communication. The methods are informed by psychological studies and founded on principles of decision making under uncertainty. We delineate four distinct levels of analysis for representing uncertainty and describe a computational framework for guiding action in an automated conversational system. We demonstrate how the framework captures grounding behavior by facilitating collaborative resolution of uncertainty as implemented in a spoken interactive dialog prototype called the Bayesian Receptionist.

Click here to access postscript or pdf file.

Keywords: Bayesian user modeling, grounding, joint activity, conversational systems, dialog systems, computational linguistics.

In: AAAI Fall Symposium on Psychological Models of Communication in Collaborative Systems, Cape Cod, MA. November 5-7, 1999.

Related Papers

E. Horvitz and T. Paek, A Computational Architecture for Conversation, Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on User Modeling, Banff, Canada, June 1999. New York: Springer Wien, pp. 201-210.

E. Horvitz. Uncertainty, Action, and Interaction: In Pursuit of Mixed-Initiative Computing, Intelligent Systems, Sept./ October Issue, IEEE Computer Society.