When bots do the negotiating, humans more likely to engage in deceptive techniques

September 22, 2020

Recently computer scientists at USC Institute of Technologies (ICT) set out to assess under what conditions humans would employ deceptive negotiating tactics. Through a series of studies, they found that whether humans would embrace a range of deceptive and sneaky techniques was dependent both on the humans' prior negotiating experience in negotiating as well as whether virtual agents where employed to negotiate on their behalf. The findings stand in contrast to prior studies and show that when humans use intermediaries in the form of virtual agents, they feel more comfortable employing more deceptive techniques than they would normally use when negotiating for themselves.

Lead author of the paper on these studies, Johnathan Mell, says, "We want to understand the conditions under which people act deceptively, in some cases purely by giving them an artificial intelligence agent that can do their dirty work for them."

Nowadays, virtual agents are employed nearly everywhere, from automated bidders on sites like eBay to virtual assistants on smart phones. One day, these agents could work on our behalf to negotiate the sale of a car, argue for a raise, or even resolve a legal dispute.

Mell, who conducted the research during his doctoral studies in computer science at USC, says, "Knowing how to design experiences and artificial agents which can act like some of the most devious among us is useful in learning how to combat those techniques in real life."

The researchers are eager to understand how these virtual agents or bots might do our bidding and to understand how humans behave when deploying these agents on their behalf.

Gale Lucas, a research assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and at USC ICT, as well as the corresponding author on the study published in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, says, "We wanted to predict how people are going to respond differently as this technology becomes available and gets to us more widely."

The research team, consisting of Mell, Sharon Mozgai, Jonathan Gratch and Lucas, conducted three separate experiments, focusing on the conditions under which humans would opt for a range of ethically dubious behaviors. These behaviors included tough bargaining (aggressive pressuring), overt lies, information withholding, manipulative use of negative emotions (feigning anger), as well as rapport building and appealing through use of sympathy. Part of these experiments involved negotiations with non-human, virtual agents and programming virtual agents as their proxies.

The researchers found that people were willing to engage in deceptive techniques under the following conditions:Say the authors, "How humans say they will make decisions and how they actually make decisions are rarely aligned." When people programmed virtual agents to make decisions, they acted similarly to as if they had engaged a lawyer as a representative and through this virtual representative, were more willing to resort to deceptive tactics.

"People with less experience may not be confident that they can use the techniques or feel uncomfortable, but they have no problem programming an agent to do that," says Lucas.

Other outcomes: when humans interacted with a virtual agent who was fair, they were fairer, but when the virtual agent was nicer or nasty in terms of its emotional displays, participants did not change their willingness to engage in deceptive practices.

The researchers also gleaned some insights about human behavior in general.

Compared to their willingness to endorse the more deceptive techniques including overt lies, information withholding, and manipulative use of negative emotions, "people really don't have any problem with being nice to get what they want or being tough to get that what they want," says Lucas, which suggests that these apparently less deceptive techniques are considered more morally acceptable by the participants.

The work has implications for ethics on technology use and for future designers. The researchers say, "If humans, as they get more experience, become more deceptive, designers of bots could account for this."

Lucas notes, "As people get to use the agents to do their bidding, we might see that their bidding might get a little less ethical."

Mell adds, "While we certainly don't want people to be less ethical, we do want to understand how people really do act, which is why experiments like these are so important to creating real, human-like artificial agents."

University of Southern California

Related Negative Emotions Articles from Brightsurf:

Why are memories attached to emotions so strong?
Multiple neurons in the brain must fire in synchrony to create persistent memories tied to intense emotions, new research from Columbia neuroscientists has found.

The relationship between looking/listening and human emotions
Toyohashi University of Technology has indicated that the relationship between attentional states in response to pictures and sounds and the emotions elicited by them may be different in visual perception and auditory perception.

Negative emotions cause stronger appetite responses in emotional eaters
A recent study at the University of Salzburg found that emotional eaters -- people who use food to regulate negative emotions -- had a stronger appetite response and found food to be more pleasant when experiencing negative emotions compared to neutral emotions.

Multitasking in the workplace can lead to negative emotions
From writing papers to answering emails, it's common for office workers to juggle multiple tasks at once.

Study highlights new strategies for helping children process negative emotions
A recent study of indigenous people in southern Chile challenges Western assumptions about children's emotional capabilities and highlights the value of spending time outdoors to help children regulate their emotions.

The 'place' of emotions
The entire set of our emotions is mapped in a small region of the brain, a 3 centimeters area of the cortex, according to a study conducted at the IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Italy.

Students do better in school when they can understand, manage emotions
Students who are better able to understand and manage their emotions effectively, a skill known as emotional intelligence, do better at school than their less skilled peers, as measured by grades and standardized test scores, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

Teens who can describe negative emotions can stave off depression
Teenagers who can describe their negative emotions in precise and nuanced ways are better protected against depression than their peers who can't.

How people want to feel determines whether others can influence their emotions
New Stanford research on emotions shows that people's motivations are a driving factor behind how much they allow others to influence their feelings, such as anger.

Emotions from touch
Touching different types of surfaces may incur certain emotions. This was the conclusion made by the psychologists from the Higher School of Economics in a recent empirical study.

Read More: Negative Emotions News and Negative Emotions Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.