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Journal of Logic and Computation

Volume 12, Issue 1, February 2002: pp. 55-117

Formalizing Collaborative Decision-making and Practical Reasoning in Multi-agent Systems

Pietro Panzarasa1, Nicholas R. Jennings2 and Timothy J. Norman3

1Dept. of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK. Email: pp@ecs.soton.ac.uk
2Dept. of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK. Email: nrj@ecs.soton.ac.uk
3Dept. of Computing Science, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UE, UK. Email: tnorman@csd.abdn.ac.uk

In this paper, we present an abstract formal model of decision-making in a social setting that covers all aspects of the process, from recognition of a potential for cooperation through to joint decision. In a multi-agent environment, where self-motivated autonomous agents try to pursue their own goals, a joint decision cannot be taken for granted. In order to decide effectively, agents need the ability to (a) represent and maintain a model of their own mental attitudes, (b) reason about other agents' mental attitudes, and (c) influence other agents' mental states. Social mental shaping is advocated as a general mechanism for attempting to have an impact on agents' mental states in order to increase their cooperativeness towards a joint decision. Our approach is to specify a novel, high-level architecture for collaborative decision-making in which the mentalistic notions of belief, desire, goal, intention, preference and commitment play a central role in guiding the individual agent's and the group's decision-making behaviour. We identify preconditions that must be fulfilled before collaborative decision-making can commence and prescribe how cooperating agents should behave, in terms of their own decision-making apparatus and their interactions with others, when the decision-making process is progressing satisfactorily. The model is formalized through a new, many-sorted, multi-modal logic.

Keywords: Multi-agent systems; BDI logic; joint mental attitudes; inter-agent social behaviour

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