SSPNet Workshop on Conflict and Communication

When in an environment resources are limited, and two or more humans or other animals need the same resource, its attainment by one is incompatible with the attainment by the other: thus conflict arises. Conflict may simply hold between two or more beliefs (cognitive conflict), or between goals of the same person or animal (intraindividual conflict), or finally between the goals of two or more individuals or groups (interpersonal and social conflict). In all cases conflict may cause internal turmoil or social aggression, and yet sometimes may also be a carrier of positive novelty and change. This workshop focuses on interpersonal and social conflict, and on the communication that may arise from it, but also give rise to it, or finally determine conflict escalation or resolution. Since such a complex topic as conflict needs to be confronted by a high level of multidisciplinarity, we encourage contributions from various fields, including Psychology, Ethology, Political Sciences, Neuroscience, Linguistics, Argumentation, Social Simulation, Robotics, Social Signal processing.

What is conflict, and what is the boundary between competition and conflict? Are all cases of aggression determined by conflict, and does conflict always lead to aggression? What are the mechanisms and triggering rules of escalation and what are those of negotiation? Sometimes conflicts are not explicit or evident, but rather deep, underground, covert. What are the signals of overt and covert conflicts? What are the routes of conflict? Is conflict primary (only stemming from context, bare competition over resources) or sometimes secondary to emotions (for instance might one start to raise conflict with another only due to personality clash)? What are the dynamics of conflict? Some theories propose that social hierarchies and leadership arise right with the function of minimizing conflicts. Is this (always) true? Are there types of social organization or leadership more apt than others to prevent conflict? What could / should be changed in an organization to lower the number and level of conflicts? Do the ways people and animals sense and manage conflict and its escalation and resolution change across ontogenetic and phylogenetic evolution, and if so, how do they? Are there neurological bases to the capacity of sensing and managing social conflict?

How is conflict expressed in communicative interaction between humans? How do the various types of conflict differ from each other, for example, discussion, argument, quarrel, contest? Do different rules apply to them? One of the main communicative forms triggered by conflict is argumentation. Can we distinguish more and less conflictual argumentations? What are the signals that reveal the existence of conflict, escalation, de-escalation, negotiation, smoothing? What are the signals of conflict between non-human animals? Are there signals shared by human and non-human animals? Conflictual communication may be studied in various modalities. In the acoustic modalities, what are the characterizing features of voice or noise in conflict? Can conflict be expressed by music? Are some types of intonation more typically used during conflict? Are there speech acts or other communicative acts typical of conflict, such as accusation, criticism, insult? How is conflict expressed in the structure of turn-taking and floor management? Are there cues of conflict in intonation and voice quality? In the visual modalities, what are the gestures, postures, gaze items and facial expressions typically used in conflict? Can conflict be expressed by art, graphics and other visual artifacts?

Is there an ethics of conflict? Are there moral rules for negotiation or reconciliation? Are there cases in which conflict cannot be avoided, or negotiation should be skipped, due to ethical reasons? Does negotiation often entail deception? What are the effects of truthful and deceitful communication on conflict? Is deception exploited to avoid conflict or is it a major cause of conflict? Sometimes sincere communication, by making the conflict explicit, may contribute to exacerbate it, so people may try to avoid sincerity or use hypocrisy or vagueness to prevent conflict; but on the other hand, if one lets conflict emerge, might this contribute, and in what cases and ways, to clarify positions, look for agreement, and start negotiation? What is the relation of conflict with truthful and deceitful communication in animals? Generally animals tend to use deception more to prevent conflict than to find a way out of it - see the function of bluff and other deceitful displays - but is this always and necessary so?

What emotions are generally a cause of conflict, and what are the most typical effects of it? How are they expressed with or without a conflictual interaction? How can trust, envy, admiration, pride, compassion or other emotions prevent, trigger, enhance, smooth conflict? How can their sincere or simulated expression work in conflict management? What is the role of empathy and other affective states in negotiation and reconciliation?

Is it possible to build systems for the automatic detection of conflict, both bottom up - by detecting signals of conflict - and top-down - by analyzing contexts and inferring their likeliness for conflict generation? Is it possible to construct a synthetic "negotiation counselor"? How can automatic argumentative systems be adapted to conflict prevention or resolution? How can the simulation of conflict in robots and neural systems give hints for the prevention and managing of conflict in humans?

Date and Venue

Aula Magna Universita' Roma Tre
Via Ostiense 234 - Roma
October 29-31, 2013

Important Dates

June 10th, 2013
Abstract submission (400 - 600 words)

July 10th, 2013
Acceptance notification (abstract)

October 29-31, 2013
Workshop (Rome)

November 30th, 2013
Full paper submission

January 20th, 2014
Acceptance notification (full paper)

February 28th, 2014
Camera-ready paper

General Chairs

Isabella Poggi
Universita' Roma Tre

Francesca D'Errico
Universita' Roma Tre

Laura Vincze
Universita' Roma Tre

Alessandro Vinciarelli
University of Glasgow / Idiap Research Institute

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