“Do As I Say, Not As I Do:” Challenges in Delegating Decisions to Automated Agents

May 9, 2016 | Singapore

Speaker: Jonathan Gratch
Host: The International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS 2016)

There has been growing interest, across various domains, in computer agents that can decide on behalf of humans. These agents have the potential to save considerable time and help humans reach better decisions. One implicit assumption, however, is that, as long as the algorithms that simulate decision-making are correct and capture how humans make decisions, humans will treat these agents similarly to other humans. Here we show that interaction with agents that act on our behalf or on behalf of others is richer and more interesting than initially expected. Our results show that, on the one hand, people are more selfish with agents acting on behalf of others, than when interacting directly with others. We propose that agents increase the social distance with others which, subsequently, leads to increased demand. On the other hand, when people task an agent to interact with others, people show more concern for fairness than when interacting directly with others. In this case, higher psychological distance leads people to consider their social image and the long-term consequences of their actions and, thus, behave more fairly. To support these findings, we present an experiment where people engaged in the ultimatum game, either directly or via an agent, with others or agents representing others. We show that these patterns of behavior also occur in a variant of the ultimatum game – the impunity game – where others have minimal power over the final outcome. Finally, we study how social value orientation – i.e., people’s propensity for cooperation – impact these effects. These results have important implications for our understanding of the psychological mechanisms underlying interaction with agents, as well as practical implications for the design of successful agents that act on our behalf or on behalf of others.