Conversation and Behavior Games in the Pragmatics of Dialogue

Cognitive Science 17 (2):197-256 (1993)
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Abstract

In this article we present the bases for a computational theory of the cognitive processes underlying human communication. The core of the article is devoted to the analysis of the phases in which the process of comprehension of a communicative act can be logically divided: (1) literal meaning, where the reconstruction of the mental states literally expressed by the actor takes place: (2) speaker's meaning, where the partner reconstructs the communicative intentions of the actor; (3) communicative effect, where the partner possibly modifies his own beliefs and intentions; (4) reaction, where the intentions for the generation of the response are produced; and (5) response, where an overt response is constructed. The model appears to be compatible with relevant facts about human behavior. Our hypothesis is that, through communication, an actor tries to exploit the motivational structures of a partner so that the desired goal is generated. A second point is that social behavior requires that cooperation be maintained at some level. In the case of communication, cooperation is, in general, pursued even when the partner does not adhere to the actor's goals, and therefore no cooperation occurs at the behavioral level. This important distinction is reflected in the two kinds of game we introduce to account for communication. The main concept implied in communication is that two agents overtly reach a situation of shared mental states. Our model deals with sharedness through two primitives: shared beliefs and communicative intentions.

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Marco Colombetti
Politecnico di Milano