The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Practical strategies for agent-based negotiation in complex environments

Practical strategies for agent-based negotiation in complex environments
Practical strategies for agent-based negotiation in complex environments
Agent-based negotiation, whereby the negotiation is automated by software programs, can be applied to many different negotiation situations, including negotiations between friends, businesses or countries. A key benefit of agent-based negotiation over human negotiation is that it can be used to negotiate effectively in complex negotiation environments, which consist of multiple negotiation issues, time constraints, and multiple unknown opponents. While automated negotiation has been an active area of research in the past twenty years, existing work has a number of limitations. Specifically, most of the existing literature has considered time constraints in terms of the number of rounds of negotiation that take place. In contrast, in this work we consider time constraints which are based on the amount of time that has elapsed. This requires a different approach, since the time spent computing the next action has an effect on the utility of the outcome, whereas the actual number of offers exchanged does not. In addition to these time constraints, in the complex negotiation environments which we consider, there are multiple negotiation issues, and we assume that the opponents’ preferences over these issues and the behaviour of those opponents are unknown. Finally, in our environment there can be concurrent negotiations between many participants.

Against this background, in this thesis we present the design of a range of practical negotiation strategies, the most advanced of which uses Gaussian process regression to coordinate its concession against its various opponents, whilst considering the behaviour of those opponents and the time constraints. In more detail, the strategy uses observations of the offers made by each opponent to predict the future concession of that opponent. By considering the discounting factor, it predicts the future time which maximises the utility of the offers, and we then use this in setting our rate of concession.
Furthermore, we evaluate the negotiation agents that we have developed, which use our strategies, and show that, particularly in the more challenging scenarios, our most advanced strategy outperforms other state-of-the-art agents from the Automated Negotiating Agent Competition, which provides an international benchmark for this work. In more detail, our results show that, in one-to-one negotiation, in the highly discounted scenarios, our agent reaches outcomes which, on average, are 2.3% higher than those of the next best agent.

Furthermore, using empirical game theoretic analysis we show the robustness of our strategy in a variety of tournament settings. This analysis shows that, in the highly discounted scenarios, no agent can benefit by choosing a different strategy (taken from the top four strategies in that setting) than ours. Finally, in the many-to-many negotiations, we show how our strategy is particularly effective in highly competitive scenarios, where it outperforms the state-of-the-art many-to-many negotiation strategy by up to 45%.
Williams, Colin Richard
6c9b507f-f9d0-4a61-84d4-01a2b311e1e6
Williams, Colin Richard
6c9b507f-f9d0-4a61-84d4-01a2b311e1e6
Jennings, Nicholas
ab3d94cc-247c-4545-9d1e-65873d6cdb30
Gerding, Enrico
d9e92ee5-1a8c-4467-a689-8363e7743362

Williams, Colin Richard (2012) Practical strategies for agent-based negotiation in complex environments. University of Southampton, School of Electronics and Computer Science, Doctoral Thesis, 208pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Agent-based negotiation, whereby the negotiation is automated by software programs, can be applied to many different negotiation situations, including negotiations between friends, businesses or countries. A key benefit of agent-based negotiation over human negotiation is that it can be used to negotiate effectively in complex negotiation environments, which consist of multiple negotiation issues, time constraints, and multiple unknown opponents. While automated negotiation has been an active area of research in the past twenty years, existing work has a number of limitations. Specifically, most of the existing literature has considered time constraints in terms of the number of rounds of negotiation that take place. In contrast, in this work we consider time constraints which are based on the amount of time that has elapsed. This requires a different approach, since the time spent computing the next action has an effect on the utility of the outcome, whereas the actual number of offers exchanged does not. In addition to these time constraints, in the complex negotiation environments which we consider, there are multiple negotiation issues, and we assume that the opponents’ preferences over these issues and the behaviour of those opponents are unknown. Finally, in our environment there can be concurrent negotiations between many participants.

Against this background, in this thesis we present the design of a range of practical negotiation strategies, the most advanced of which uses Gaussian process regression to coordinate its concession against its various opponents, whilst considering the behaviour of those opponents and the time constraints. In more detail, the strategy uses observations of the offers made by each opponent to predict the future concession of that opponent. By considering the discounting factor, it predicts the future time which maximises the utility of the offers, and we then use this in setting our rate of concession.
Furthermore, we evaluate the negotiation agents that we have developed, which use our strategies, and show that, particularly in the more challenging scenarios, our most advanced strategy outperforms other state-of-the-art agents from the Automated Negotiating Agent Competition, which provides an international benchmark for this work. In more detail, our results show that, in one-to-one negotiation, in the highly discounted scenarios, our agent reaches outcomes which, on average, are 2.3% higher than those of the next best agent.

Furthermore, using empirical game theoretic analysis we show the robustness of our strategy in a variety of tournament settings. This analysis shows that, in the highly discounted scenarios, no agent can benefit by choosing a different strategy (taken from the top four strategies in that setting) than ours. Finally, in the many-to-many negotiations, we show how our strategy is particularly effective in highly competitive scenarios, where it outperforms the state-of-the-art many-to-many negotiation strategy by up to 45%.

PDF Thesis.pdf - Other
Download (2MB)

More information

Published date: December 2012
Organisations: University of Southampton, Agents, Interactions & Complexity

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 348190
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/348190
PURE UUID: 3dec53c1-2f61-4530-9107-91acff6d3c69

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 07 Feb 2013 19:05
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 04:53

Export record

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×