Training the use of theory of mind using artificial agents

Kim Veltman, Harmen de Weerd, Rineke Verbrugge

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When engaging in social interaction, people rely on their ability to reason about unobservable mental content of others, which includes goals, intentions, and beliefs. This so-called theory of mind ability allows them to more easily understand, predict, and influence the behavior of others. People even use their theory of mind to reason about the theory of mind of others, which allows them to understand sentences like "Alice believes that Bob does not know about the surprise party". But while the use of higher orders of theory of mind is apparent in many social interactions, empirical evidence so far suggests that people do not use this ability spontaneously when playing strategic games, even when doing so would be highly benecifial. In this paper, we attempt to encourage participants to engage in higher-order theory of mind reasoning by letting them play a game against computational agents. Since previous research suggests that competitive games may encourage the use of theory of mind, we investigate a particular competitive game, the Mod game, which can be seen as a much larger variant of the well-known rock-paper-scissors game. By using a combination of computational agents and Bayesian model selection, we simultaneously determine to what extent people make use of higher-order theory of mind reasoning, as well as to what extent computational agents can encourage the use of higher-order theory of mind in their human opponents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-18
Journal Journal on multimodal user interfaces
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • theory of mind
  • agent-based modeling
  • games
  • virtual training agents
  • social skills


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