Collective Commitment

ProtoSociology 16:215-240 (2002)
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Abstract

Organizations can be seen as a collection of interacting agents to achieve a certain task: a collective task. Since such a task is beyond the capacity of an individual agent, the agents have to communicate, cooperate, coordinate, and negotiate with each other, to achieve the collective task. In distributed artificial intelligence (DAI) theories of organizations, it is emphasized that ‘commitment’ is a crucial notion to analyze a collective activity or the structure of an organization. In this paper, we analyze the notion of commitment to gain more insight in the social interactions between the agents in an organization. Many social interactions between agents demand the use of commitments to reach socially efficient or avoid socially inefficient outcomes. Commitments express the desires, goals, or intentions of the agents in an interaction. Using a game-theoretic model, we will show that, depending on the incentive structure, different interactions require different types of commitments to reach socially efficient outcomes. Based on these results, we discuss whether existing (or slightly adapted) logical formalizations are adequate for the description of certain types of commitments and which formalization is suitable for reaching a socially efficient outcome in a specific interaction.

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