Utility-Based Generation of Referring Expressions

Topics in Cognitive Science 4 (2):306-329 (2012)


This paper presents two cognitive models that simulate the production of referring expressions in the iMAP task—a task-oriented dialog. One general model is based on Dale and Reiter’s (1995)incremental algorithm, and the other is a simple template model that has a higher correlation with the data but is specifically geared toward the properties of the iMAP task. The property of the iMAP task environment that is modeled here is that the color feature is unreliable for identifying referents while other features are reliable. The low computational cost of the incremental algorithm for generating referring expressions makes it an interesting starting point for a cognitive model. However, its explanatory power is limited, because it generates uniquely distinguishing referring expressions and because it considers features for inclusion in the referring expression in a fixed order. The first model extends the original incremental algorithm by an ability to adapt to feedback of whether a referring expression was used successfully, but it seems to overpredict the frequency with which distinguishing expressions are made and underpredict the frequency of overspecified referring expressions. The second model produces features for referring expressions purely based on its current estimate of a feature’s utility. Both models predict the observed human behavior of decreasing use of color terms and increasing use of useful feature terms

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