Special session at ICMC and special issue in JOCM – Models of moral decision making

The International Choice Modeling Conference 2019, which is the premier venue for choice modelers world-wide, will feature a special session on Models of moral decision making. The session, which is sponsored by the BEHAVE-program and organized by Caspar Chorus, Jürgen Meyerhoff and Ulf Liebe, will present novel work concerning the (theoretical) development and (empirical) testing of mathematical representations of human decision-making in morally sensitive contexts. Authors of accepted abstracts will be invited to submit full papers to a corresponding special issue, to be published in the JCR-listed Journal of Choice Modelling. The call for abstracts can be found here. We look forward to receiving your submission! Note that submission to this special session does not count against the ‘one presentation per registration’-quotum of the conference.

Presentations at the TRAIL PhD Congress

Andreia Martins Martinho and Teodóra Szép presented their research in Utrecht at the TRAIL PhD Congress 2018.

Andreia’s presentation titled ‘Novel perspectives on ethics and Autonomous Vehicles’ can be found here, and Teodóra’s presentation,  ‘Decision making with moral dimensions – Comparison of incentives for cooperative driving’, can be found here. Their abstracts -along with all other presenters’- can be found in the program book.

Paper on altruistic route choice behaviour accepted for publication in Transportation

A paper that was co-authored by Caspar has been accepted for publication in one the Transportation field’s most prominent journals (Transportation). The paper presents the main results of the PhD-research of Mariska van Essen, who succesfully defended her dissertation last Friday at Twente University (Caspar was one of her supervisors, called ‘promotors’ in Dutch academia). Although Mariska and her project was not part of the BEHAVE-program, her work has obvious relevance for us. The paper analyzes the willingness of travelers to behave altruistically, in the sense of sacrificing small amounts of travel time to create benefits at the transport network level. This constitutes a classical social dilemma, in which freeriding (to use a transport-related metaphore) allows a traveler to benefit from other travelers’ altruistic choices. The paper’s abstract reads as follows: “This study examines to what extent travel information can be used to direct travelers to system-optimal routes that may be sub-optimal for them personally, but contribute to network efficiency. This is done by empirically examining determinants of travelers’ compliance with social routing advice. To that end, we conducted both a stated choice experiment and a revealed choice experiment (which also collected stated intentions and motivations for revealed behavior). Results from the stated choice experiment indicate a significant difference in compliance behavior across different information frames, societal goals, sizes of travel time sacrifices and personality. These findings are less evident from results based on analysis of revealed choices; i.e. the main motivation for revealed compliance seems to be an intrinsic motivation to contribute to improved throughput, while the main motivation for non-compliance relates to perceived traffic conditions. Moreover, the size of the travel time sacrifice seems not that important as expected. Nonetheless, comparing stated intentions with real-world behavior suggests that a relation between intention and compliance frequency does exist.”

Presentation at the 2018 Social Simulation Conference

Nicolas Cointe, who just started as a Postdoctoral researcher in the BEHAVE-program, has presented a paper titled “Ethics-based cooperation in Multi-Agent Systems” at the 2018 Social Simulation Conference which was held in Stockholm, August 20-24. The abstract of the paper, which was co-authored by profs Grégory Bonnet and Olivier Boissier, reads as follows: “In the recent literature in Artificial Intelligence, ethical issues are increasingly discussed. Many proposals of ethical agents are made. However, those approaches consider mainly an agent-centered perspective, letting aside the collective dimension of multi-agent systems. For instance, when considering cooperation among such agents, ethics could be a key issue to drive the interactions among the agents. This paper presents a model for ethics-based cooperation. Each agent uses an ethical judgment process to compute images of the other agents’ ethical behavior. Based on a rationalist and explicit approach, the judgment process distinguishes a theory of good, namely how values and moral rules are defined, and a theory of right, namely how a behavior is judged with respect to ethical principles. From these images of the other agents’ ethics, the judging agent computes trust used to cooperate with the judged agents.We illustrate these functionalities in an asset management scenario with a proof-of-concept implemented in the JaCaMo Multi-Agent Platform.” Welcome to the team, Nicolas, and we look forward to more research along these lines!

New publication: Uncovering preference changes over time for sheltering refugees in Germany

This week, a paper co-authored by Maarten Kroesen and Caspar has been published in the open access journal PLOS ONE. The paper uses a combined Latent class-Markov modeling approach to study heterogeneity (across individuals) and changes (over time) in preferences of German citizens for sheltering refugees, a morally sensitive topic. The study was conceived by Professor Ulf Liebe from Warwick University, who also collected data, together with Dr. Jürgen Meyerhoff from TU Berlin. The contribution from the side of BEHAVE mostly concerned analyzing data using the above mentioned methodology, in which Maarten has special expertise. The study shows the potential of using sophisticated choice models in combination with data from discrete choice experiments, to explain and predict decision making behaviors in moral choice contexts.

A short abstract of the paper reads as follows: “Europe recently experienced a large influx of refugees, spurring much public debate about the admission and integration of refugees and migrants into society. This paper studies the acceptance of refugee and migrant homes in citizens’ vicinity and how it changes over time. Based on a repeated stated choice experiment on preferences for refugee and migrant homes, we show that the initially promoted “welcome culture” towards refugees in Germany was not reflected in the views of a majority of a sample of German citizens who rather disapproved refugee homes in their vicinity. Their preferences have not changed between November 2015, the peak of “welcome culture,” and November 2016, after political debates, media reporting and public discourse had shifted towards limiting admission of immigrants. A minority of one fifth of the sample population, who were initially rather approving of refugee and migrant homes being established in their vicinity, were more likely to change their preferences towards a rather disapproving position in 2016.”.

Dr. Erlend Sandorf visiting BEHAVE-team

An environmental economist by training, Erlend’s expertise is in developing choice experiments and discrete choice theory for valuing non-market goods. He has done recent work in capturing multiple decision rules from observed choice data, which aligns well with the BEHAVE-research goals of identifying moral decision rules. During his three-week visit, Erlend will help design an experiment to empirically identify obfuscation-behavior, and we will work on new ways to model satisficing behavior. Welcome to Delft, Erlend!

Keynote on BEHAVE-research at the 18th Swiss Transport Research Conference

Friday 18 May, Caspar gave the closing keynote at the 18th STRC, which took place in Ascona, Switzerland, at the Lago Maggiore. This annual conference, hosted this year by Kay Axhausen’s IVT-group at ETH Zurich, brings together the best of Swiss transport-research. In Caspar’s keynote, he presented the Obfuscation-model – see  below for more information ­– with particular focus on applications in transport such as related to Automated Vehicles. The slides can be found here. The conference was wonderful: high-level research efforts, great company including some old friends and many new faces; and, as we would expect from the Swiss, impeccable organization (thank you, Felix Becker!).

New BEHAVE-research: Model of obfuscation based decision-making

Monday 9 April, Caspar has presented –at his section’s colloquium series– a new model of decision-making with relevance for moral choice behavior of humans and artificial agents. The so-called obfuscation-based model postulates that in some (moral) choice situations, agents may wish to hide the motivations (e.g. moral rules) underlying their choices, from onlookers. Here are the slides of the presentation.

The abstract of the talk is as follows: Formal models of decision-making are routinely founded on the assumption that agents base their choices on underlying motivations (also named preferences, goals, decision rules, desires, etc.); this talk presents a new perspective on modelling decision-making, by assuming that agents –when making choices– aim to obfuscate (hide) their underlying motivations. In other words, where decision models usually assume that motivations echo through in choices, this model postulates that decision-makers may want to suppress that echo.

Such obfuscation-behaviour is likely to occur in various situations: think of a person facing a moral dilemma, who is unsure which moral principle to apply and afraid that an onlooker (which may be her own ‘moral persona’) will punish her with contempt or feelings of guilt, if the ‘wrong’ moral principle is applied. Or think of an Artificial Agent that is being trained using a penalty-system to avoid implicit moral biases underlying her choices. In such situations, the agent benefits from choosing actions that, while being in line with her motivations, at the same time hide those motivations for onlookers or prosecutors.

 Combining notions of Bayesian inference and Information entropy, I present a mathematical representation of such obfuscating agent behaviour; and I illustrate how the actions chosen by obfuscators differ from those chosen by agents that do not attempt to obfuscate. I also show how an onlooker may try to design choice sets that maximize the information that may be extracted from choices made by (non-)obfuscating agents.

March 2018: Joint workshop with CoreSAEP

On March 22nd, the BEHAVE-team held a joint workshop together with the CoreSAEP-team. The CoreSAEP-research program is chaired by Birna van Riemsdijk (Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and Computer Science @ TU Delft), and sponsored by a so-called Vidi-grant from NWO. It aims to develop a new computational reasoning framework for Socially Adaptive Electronic Partners that support people in their daily lives. The PI and three researchers currently active in that program pitched their research, and so did the core-researchers and PI of BEHAVE. The workshop was most useful and inspirational, as it turned out that the two programs have enough overlap to ensure a meaningful discussion, yet enough difference in perspectives and backgrounds to ensure a mutual learning experience. For example, the experience in the BEHAVE-program with extracting moral decision rules and preferences from observed behaviours is likely to be of use for the design of socially adaptive technologies in CoreSAEP. Vice versa, the multi-agent perspective developed in that program, is likely to be very relevant for modules 3 and 4 of the BEHAVE-program. Several plans for future collaboration were discussed – to be continued!

January and February 2018: Several seminars and pitches of the BEHAVE-program

In a series of seminars and pitches, Caspar introduced the BEHAVE-program to a variety of audiences:

  • On February 26, Caspar presented the BEHAVE-program in a seminar at Ben-Gurion University, as part of a two-day research visit to Beër Sjeva, Israel. A collaboration was started with Eran Ben-Elia and his co-workers on the topic of ‘Moral Automated Vehicles’. Specifically, we will attempt to study, using agent based-methods, how different moral rules embedded in automated vehicles impact traffic flows and aggregate travel times in transport networks where automated vehicles and conventional vehicles interact.
  • On February 15, invited by Esther de Bekker-Grob (Health economics & policy) and Bas Donkers (Quantitative marketing & econometrics), Caspar presented the BEHAVE-program at Erasmus University Rotterdam. The seminar was part of the Choice Modeling Center seminar series. Afterwards, potential avenues for collaborations were explored, particularly to study moral aspects of health related decision-making and policy design. Even more so than in Transportation contexts, many health related choices have a clear moral dimension, making the development of moral choice models all the more important in that field.
  • On Friday 2 February, Caspar pitched the BEHAVE-program to a team of civil servants from Amsterdam municipality, all working on smart mobility. The meeting was organized by the AMS-institute, which is a joint initiative of TU Delft, Wageningen university, MIT, Amsterdam municipality and many other partners; it aims to translate academic results into real life applications that benefit liveability in dense urban areas such as Amsterdam. In his presentation, Caspar emphasized the opportunity of collaboration between BEHAVE-researchers and Amsterdam, to identify and work with crucial moral aspects of topics such as co-operative driving and automated vehicles (‘moral machines’).
  • On January 16, for a diverse public consisting of philosophers, economists, psychologists and sociologists, Caspar presented the BEHAVE-program and its first recent output in the form of a study into taboo trade-off aversion (see here for an announcement of the seminar). The seminar was organized by Professor Andreas Flache of Groningen University, who is professor of Sociology and leading expert in the field of social simulation, and took place in the beautifully renovated “de Gadourekzaal”. Afterwards, potential avenues for collaborations were explored – to be continued! The slides of Caspar’s talk can be found here.