A Coherence Maximisation Process For Solving Normative Inconsistencies

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Norms can be used in multi-agent systems for defining patterns of behaviour in terms of permissions, prohibitions and obligations that are addressed to agents playing a specific role. Agents may play different roles during their execution and they may even play different roles simultaneously. As a consequence, agents may be affected by inconsistent norms; e.g., an agent may be simultaneously obliged and forbidden to reach a given state of affairs. Dealing with this type of inconsistency is one of the main challenges of normative reasoning. Existing approaches tackle this problem by using a static and predefined order that determines which norm should prevail in the case where two norms are inconsistent. One main drawback of these proposals is that they allow only pairwise comparison of norms; it is not clear how agents may use the predefined order to select a subset of norms to abide by from a set of norms containing multiple inconsistencies. Furthermore, in dynamic and non-deterministic environments it can be difficult or even impossible to specify an order that resolves inconsistencies satisfactorily in all potential situations. In response to these two problems, we propose a mechanism with which an agent can dynamically compute a preference order over subsets of its competing norms by considering the coherence of its cognitive and normative elements. Our approach allows flexible resolution of normative inconsistencies, tailored to the current circumstances of the agent. Moreover, our solution can be used to determine norm prevalence among a set of norms containing multiple inconsistencies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640–680
JournalAutonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems
Issue number4
Early online date12 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


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