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Repair in a task-oriented chatbot, and the question of communication skills for AI

posted on 2022-07-13, 19:28 authored by DORIS DIPPOLDDORIS DIPPOLD

Repair describes the process through which participants in conversation address problems in speaking, understanding, and hearing. In interactions with AI-driven chatbots, repair helps users clarify their intents and addresses problems in understanding intent experienced by chatbots. This paper represents the first attempt to describe repair strategies in a task-oriented text-based chatbot from a user-centred perspective. It is based on the analysis of simulated user interactions with a chatbot facilitating health appointment bookings. The analysis shows that the self-repair strategies which users draw on most frequently (e.g. rephrasing) are not necessarily the ones which prompt the bot to provide relevant responses, whereas more successful self-repair strategies (e.g. restating the intent) tend to be more opaque to users and thus used relatively infrequently. This suggest that the notion of communicative competence needs to be re-thought for conversational AI and that communication skills for AI need to be taught explicitly. 


ESRC IAA University of Surrey


Declaration of conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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Lead author country

  • United Kingdom

Lead author job role

  • Higher Education Lecturer

Lead author institution

University of Surrey

Ethics statement

Participants were provided with an information sheet informing them about the purpose of the study. They gave online consent for their bot interactions to be used for research purposes.

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