Martin Pickering

University of Edinburgh



Dialogue mechanisms for mutual understanding

Dialogue supports dynamic mechanisms that enable conversants to establish mutual understanding. Mutual understanding comes about when (1) communicators understand an utterance in the same way as each other and (2) they believe that they do so. We argue that (1) depends upon a backward looking mechanism of interactive alignment and (2) depends upon a related forward looking monitoring mechanism based on simulating each other’s utterances. First, we consider evidence that successful communication (an indicator of mutual understanding) relates to the degree to which communicators become aligned. Then we outline how the proposed simulation-based monitoring system might work and how it enables conversants to keep track of their alignment and hence their degree of mutual understanding.


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