These Bots Are Ready To Give You The Business – Jon Gratch’s Negotiation Research in Buzzfeed

Published: May 10, 2016
Category: News

Buzzfeed covered ICT and USC Marshall School research teaching a computer to negotiate with humans in the hopes of someday using it as a training tool for everything from business to diplomacy.
In the story ICT’s Jonathan Gratch says (normal) people often feel — understandably! — weird about using tactics like feigned anger or lying in a negotiation with another person. In a way, the point of his program is to desensitize students to that natural ~human~ discomfort by letting then practice such methods on a virtual human first.
“People find it awkward if someone is coming at them with a tough negotiation tactic,” Gratch explained. “They want to be collaborative and concede. A lot of negotiation is learning to stand up for your interests, which requires you to be confrontational.”
The story states that Gratch’s virtual humans can be calibrated to be more or less truthful. They can even be programmed to lie outright, saying they don’t want an item they actually do want in order to make it appear less valuable to an opponent. They can also bluff, using human body language (crossed arms, furrowed brow) to intimate frustration, disinterest or disgust.
“If you’re practicing negotiation. you want to start with a straightforward honest person,” said Gratch. “Then you want to ratchet up the difficulty by making them more Machiavellian.”