A successful negotiation demands a deep comprehension of the conversation context, Theory-of-Mind (ToM) skills to infer the partner's motives, as well as strategic reasoning and effective communication, making it challenging for automated systems. Given the remarkable performance of LLMs across a variety of NLP tasks, in this work, we aim to understand how LLMs can advance different aspects of negotiation research, ranging from designing dialogue systems to providing pedagogical feedback and scaling up data collection practices. To this end, we devise a methodology to analyze the multifaceted capabilities of LLMs across diverse dialogue scenarios covering all the time stages of a typical negotiation interaction. Our analysis adds to the increasing evidence for the superiority of GPT-4 across various tasks while also providing insights into specific tasks that remain difficult for LLMs. For instance, the models correlate poorly with human players when making subjective assessments about the negotiation dialogues and often struggle to generate responses that are contextually appropriate as well as strategically advantageous.
A natural way to design a negotiation dialogue system is via self-play RL: train an agent that learns to maximize its performance by interacting with a simulated user that has been designed to imitate human-human dialogue data. Although this procedure has been adopted in prior work, we find that it results in a fundamentally flawed system that fails to learn the value of compromise in a negotiation, which can often lead to no agreements (i.e., the partner walking away without a deal), ultimately hurting the model's overall performance. We investigate this observation in the context of the DealOrNoDeal task, a multi-issue negotiation over books, hats, and balls. Grounded in negotiation theory from Economics, we modify the training procedure in two novel ways to design agents with diverse personalities and analyze their performance with human partners. We find that although both techniques show promise, a selfish agent, which maximizes its own performance while also avoiding walkaways, performs superior to other variants by implicitly learning to generate value for both itself and the negotiation partner. We discuss the implications of our findings for what it means to be a successful negotiation dialogue system and how these systems should be designed in the future.
Opponent modeling is the task of inferring another party's mental state within the context of social interactions. In a multi-issue negotiation, it involves inferring the relative importance that the opponent assigns to each issue under discussion, which is crucial for finding high-value deals. A practical model for this task needs to infer these priorities of the opponent on the fly based on partial dialogues as input, without needing additional annotations for training. In this work, we propose a ranker for identifying these priorities from negotiation dialogues. The model takes in a partial dialogue as input and predicts the priority order of the opponent. We further devise ways to adapt related data sources for this task to provide more explicit supervision for incorporating the opponent's preferences and offers, as a proxy to relying on granular utterance-level annotations. We show the utility of our proposed approach through extensive experiments based on two dialogue datasets. We find that the proposed data adaptations lead to strong performance in zero-shot and few-shot scenarios. Moreover, they allow the model to perform better than baselines while accessing fewer utterances from the opponent. We release our code to support future work in this direction.