How Packaging of Information in Conversation Is Impacted by Communication Medium and Restrictions

In team-based tasks, successful communication and mutual understanding are essential to facilitate team coordination and performance. It is well-established that an important component of human conversation (whether in speech, text, or any medium) is the maintenance of common ground. Maintaining common ground has a number of associated processes in which conversational participants engage. Many of these processes are lacking in current synthetic teammates, and it is unknown to what extent this lack of capabilities affects their ability to contribute during team-based tasks. We focused our research on how teams package information within a conversation, by which we mean specifically (1) whether information is explicitly mentioned or implied, and (2) how multiple pieces of information are ordered both within single communications and across multiple communications. We re-analyzed data collected from a simulated remotely-piloted aerial system (RPAS) task in which team members had to specify speed, altitude, and radius restrictions. The data came from three experiments: the “speech” experiment, the “text” experiment, and the “evaluation” experiment (which had a condition that included a synthetic teammate). We asked first whether teams settled on a specific routine for communicating the speed, altitude, and radius restrictions, and whether this process was different if the teams communicated in speech compared to text. We then asked how receiving special communication instructions in the evaluation experiment impacted the way the human teammates package information. We found that teams communicating in either speech or text tended to use a particular order for mentioning the speed, altitude, and radius. Different teams also chose different orders from one another. The teams in the evaluation experiment, however, showed unnaturally little variability in their information ordering and were also more likely to explicitly mention all restrictions even when they did not apply. Teams in the speech and text experiments were more likely to leave unnecessary restrictions unmentioned, and were also more likely to convey the restrictions across multiple communications. The option to converge on different packaging routines may have contributed to improved performance in the text experiment compared some of the conditions in the evaluation experiment.

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