Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 207–249 | Cite as

Commitments and interaction norms in organisations

  • Mehdi Dastani
  • Leendert van der Torre
  • Neil Yorke-SmithEmail author


In an organisational setting such as an online marketplace, an entity called the ‘organisation’ or ‘institution’ defines interaction protocols, monitors agent interaction, and intervenes to enforce the interaction protocols. The organisation might be a software system that thus regulates the marketplace, for example. In this article we abstract over application-specific protocols and consider commitment lifecycles as generic interaction protocols. We model interaction protocols by explicitly-represented norms, such that we can operationalise the enforcement of protocols by means of norm enforcement, and we can analyse the protocols by a logical analysis of the norms. We adopt insights and methods from commitment-based approaches to agent interaction as well as from norm-based approaches to agent behaviour governance. First, we show how to use explicitly-represented norms to model commitment dynamics (lifecycles). Second, we introduce an operational semantics to operationalise norm enforcement. Third, we show how to logically analyse interaction protocols by means of commitment dynamics and norm enforcement. The model, semantics, and analysis are illustrated by a running example from a vehicle insurance domain.


Commitments Normative organisations Operational semantics 



Thanks to the JAAMAS reviewers who helped us improve the article. We thank the participants of the COIN’12 workshop at AAMAS’12 for the discussions of the preliminary idea of the article [34], and for suggestions that have directed our investigations. Further preliminary presentation of this work was made at the AAMAS’12 conference [33]. Thanks to Amit Chopra, Steven McNamara and Paolo Torroni. NYS Acknowledges Award Number 102853 from the University Research Board, American University of Beirut, and thanks the Operations group at the Cambridge Judge Business School and the fellowship at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge.


  1. 1.
    Alechina, N., Dastani, M., & Logan, B. (2012). Programming norm-aware agents. In Proceedings of AAMAS’12 (pp. 1057–1064).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Alechina, N., Dastani, M., & Logan, B. (2013). Reasoning about normative update. In IJCAI 2013, Proceedings of the 23rd international joint conference on artificial intelligence. Beijing, August 3–9, 2013.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Andrighetto, G., Governatori, G., Noriega, P., & van der Torre, L. (Eds.). (2013). Normative multi-agent systems, dagstuhl follow-ups (Vol. 4). Dagstuhl: Schloss Dagstuhl-Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Baldoni, M., Baroglio, C., & Marengo, E. (2010). Behavior-oriented commitment-based protocols. In Proceedings of ECAI’10 (pp. 137–142).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Baldoni, M., Boella, G., & van der Torre, L. (2006). Roles as a coordination construct: Introducing powerJava. Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science, 150(1), 9–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Baldoni, M., Boella, G., & van der Torre, L. (2009). The interplay between relationships, roles and objects. In Proceedings of 3rd international conference on fundamentals of software engineering (FSEN’09) (pp. 402–415)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Billhardt, H., Centeno, R., Cuesta, C. E., Fernández, A., Hermoso, R., Ortiz, R., et al. (2011). Organisational structures in next-generation distributed systems: Towards a technology of agreement. Multiagent and Grid Systems, 7(2–3), 109–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Boella, G., Broersen, J., & van der Torre, L. (2008). Reasoning about constitutive norms, counts-as conditionals, institutions, deadlines and violations. In Proceedings of PRIMA’08 (pp. 86–97).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Boella, G., Damiano, R., Hulstijn, J., & van der Torre, L. (2007). A common ontology of agent communication languages: Modelling mental attitudes and social commitments using roles. Applied Ontology, 2(3–4), 217–265.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Boella, G., Hulstijn, J., & van der Torre, L. (2005). Interaction in normative multi-agent systems. Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science, 141(5), 135–162.CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Boella, G., & van der Torre, L. (2004). Regulative and constitutive norms in normative multiagent systems. In Proceedings of KR’04 (pp. 255–266).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Boella, G., & van der Torre, L. (2006). Coordination and organization: Definitions, examples and future research directions. Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science, 150(3), 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Boella, G., & van der Torre, L. (2007). The ontological properties of social roles in multi-agent systems: Definitional dependence, powers and roles playing roles. Artificial Intelligence and Law, 15(3), 201–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Boella, G., & van der Torre, L. (2008). Substantive and procedural norms in normative multiagent systems. Journal of Applied Logic, 6(2), 152–171.MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Boella, G., van der Torre, L., & Verhagen, H. (2006). Introduction to normative multiagent systems. Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory, 12(2–3), 71–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Boella, G., van der Torre, L., & Verhagen, H. (2008). Introduction to the special issue on normative multiagent systems. Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems, 17(1), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Broersen, J. M., Dastani, M., Hulstijn, J., Huang, Z., & van der Torre, L. (2001). The BOID architecture: Conflicts between beliefs, obligations, intentions and desires. In Proceedings of 5th international conference on autonomous agents (Agents’01) (pp. 9–16).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Bulling, N., & Dastani, M. (2011). Verifying normative behaviour via normative mechanism design. In Proceedings of IJCAI’11 (pp. 103–108).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Bulling, N., Dastani, M., & Knobbout, M. (2013). Monitoring norm violations in multi-agent systems. In Proceedings of AAMAS’13 (pp. 491–498).Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Carabelea, C., & Boissier, O. (2006). Coordinating agents in organizations using social commitments. Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science, 150(3), 73–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Castelfranchi, C. (1995). Commitments: From individual intentions to groups and organizations. In Proceedings of 1st international conference on multiagent systems (ICMAS’95) (pp. 41–48).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Chesani, F., Mello, P., Montali, M., & Torroni, P. (2009). Commitment tracking via the reactive event calculus. In Proceedings of IJCAI’09 (pp. 91–96).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Chesani, F., Mello, P., Montali, M., & Torroni, P. (2013). Representing and monitoring social commitments using the event calculus. Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems, 27(1), 85–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Chopra, A. K., Dalpiaz, F., Giorgini, P., & Mylopoulos, J. (2010) Modeling and reasoning about service-oriented applications via goals and commitments. In Proceedings of CAiSE’10 (pp. 113–128).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Chopra, A. K., & Singh, M. P. (2011). Specifying and applying commitment-based business patterns. In Proceedings of AAMAS’11 (pp. 475–482).Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Coffee, J. C, Jr, & Sale, H. A. (2012). Securities regulation (12th ed.). Eagan, MN: Foundation Press.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Colombetti, M. (2000). A commitment-based approach to agent speech acts and conversations. In Proceedings of workshop on agent languages and communication policies (pp. 21–29).Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Dastani, M. (2009). Normative multi-agent organizations. In Engineering societies in the agents world X, LNCS (Vol. 5881, pp. 247–249). Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Dastani, M., Arbab, F., & de Boer, F. S. (2005). Coordination and composition in multi-agent systems. In Proceedings of AAMAS’05 (pp. 439–446).Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Dastani, M., Meyer, J. C., & Grossi, D. (2013). A logic for normative multi-agent programs. Journal of Logic and Computation, 23(2), 335–354.MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Dastani, M., Meyer, J. C., & Tinnemeier, N. A. M. (2012). Programming norm change. Journal of Applied Non-Classical Logics, 22(1–2), 151–180.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Dastani, M., Tinnemeier, N., & Meyer, J. J. C. (2009). A programming language for normative multi-agent systems. In Multi-agent systems: Semantics and dynamics of organizational models. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Dastani M. van der Torre, L., & Yorke-Smith, N. (2012). A programming approach to monitoring commitments in an organisational environment. In Proceedings of AAMAS’12 (pp. 1373–1374).Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Dastani, M., van der Torre, L., & Yorke-Smith, N. (2013). Monitoring interaction in organisations. In Coordination, organizations, institutions, and norms in agent systems VIII. LNCS (Vol. 7756, pp. 17–34). Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    de Boer, F. S., van Eijk, R., van der Hoek, W., & Meyer, J. J. (2003). A fully abstract model for the exchange of information in multi-agent systems. Theoretical Computer Science, 290(3), 1753–1773.MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Dechesne, F., di Tosto, G., Dignum, V., & Dignum, F. (2013). No smoking here: Values, norms and culture in multi-agent systems. Artificial Intelligence and Law, 21(1), 79–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    El Menshawy, M., Bentahar, J., Qu, H., & Dssouli, R. (2011). On the verification of social commitments and time. In Proceedings of AAMAS’11 (pp. 483–490).Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Esparcia, S., Argente, E., Centeno, R., & Hermoso, R. (2011). Enhancing MAS environments with organizational mechanisms. International Journal on Artificial Intelligence Tools, 20(4), 663–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Felipe, L. O., Álvarez-Napagao, S., & Vázquez-Salceda, J. (2012). Towards a framework for the analysis of regulative norm performance in complex networks. In Proceedings of 1st international conference on agreement technogolies (AT’12) (pp. 103–104).Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    FIPA. (2002). Communicative act library specification. Retrieved October 21, 2015, from
  41. 41.
    Flores, R. A., Pasquier, P., & Chaib-draa, B. (2007). Conversational semantics sustained by commitments. Autonomous Agents and Multi-agent Systems, 14, 165–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Fornara, N., & Colombetti, M. (2004). A commitment-based approach to agent communication. Applied Artificial Intelligence, 18(9–10), 853–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Fornara, N., Viganò, F., & Colombetti, M. (2007). Agent communication and artificial institutions. Autonomous Agents and Multi-agent Systems, 14, 121–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Gabbay, D., Horty, J., Parent, X., van der Meyden, R., & van der Torre, L. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of deontic logic and normative systems. London: College Publications.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Grossi, D., Dignum, F., Dastani, M., & Royakkers, L. M. M. (2005). Foundations of organizational structures in multiagent systems. In Proceedings of AAMAS’05 (pp. 690–697).Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Günay, A., Winikoff, M., & Yolum, P. (2015). Dynamically generated commitment protocols in open systems. Journal of Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems, 29(2), 192–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Jonge, D. D., Rosell, B., & Sierra, C. (2013). Human interactions in electronic institutions. In Proceedings of 2nd international conference on agreement technologies (AT’13) (pp. 75–89).Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Kafalı, O., & Torroni, P. (2011). Social commitment delegation and monitoring. In J. Leite, P. Torroni, T. Gotnes, G. Boella, & L. van der Torre (Eds.), Computational logic in multi-agent systems, LNCS (Vol. 6814, pp. 171–189). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Kibble, R. (2006). Speech acts, commitment and multi-agent communication. Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, 12, 127–145.CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Knobbout, M., & Dastani, M. (2012). Reasoning under compliance assumptions in normative multiagent systems. In Proceedings of AAMAS’12 (pp. 331–340).Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Mallya, A. U., Yolum, P., & Singh, M. P. (2003). Resolving commitments among autonomous agents. In Proceedings of workshop on agent communication, LNCS (Vol. 2922, pp. 166–182). Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Marengo, E., Baldoni, M., Baroglio, C., Chopra, A. K., Patti, V., & Singh, M. P. (2011). Commitments with regulations: Reasoning about safety and control in regula. In Proceedings of AAMAS’11 (pp. 467–474).Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    McBurney, P., van Eijk, R., Parsons, S., & Amgoud, L. (2003). A dialogue game protocol for agent purchase negotiations. Journal of Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems, 7(3), 235–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Ohlbach, H. J., & Gabbay, D. (1998). Calendar logic. Journal of Applied Non-Classical Logics, 8(4), 291–323.MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Pasquier, P., & Chaib-draa, B. (2006). Integrating social commitment-based communication in cognitive agent modeling. In Agent communication II. LNCS (Vol. 3859, pp. 76–92). Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Raffaini, M. (2001). The virtual organisation. In Proceedings of 7th international conference on concurrent enterprising (ICE’01).Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Reinach, A. (1913). Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung, chap. Die apriorischen Grundlagen des bürgerlichen Rechtes (Vol. 1, pp. 685–847). Halle: M. Niemeyer.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Riemsdijk, M. B. V., Hindriks, K. V., & Jonker, C. M. (2009). Programming organization-aware agents. In H. Aldewereld, V. Dignum, & G. Picard (Eds.), Engineering societies in the agents world X, LNCS (Vol. 5881, pp. 98–112). Heidelberg: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Searle, J. (1995). The construction of social reality. New York, NY: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech acts: An essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Singh, M. P. (1997). Commitments among autonomous agents in information-rich environments. In Proceedings 8th european workshop on modelling autonomous agents in a multi-agent world (pp. 141–155).Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Singh, M. P. (2000). A social semantics for agent communication languages. In Issues in agent communication 2000, LNCS 1916 (pp. 31–45). Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Singh, M. P. (2013). Norms as a basis for governing sociotechnical systems. ACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology, 5(1), 21.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    Taylor, F. W. (1911). The principles of scientific management. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Telang, P. R., & Singh, M. P. (2012). Specifying and verifying cross-organizational business models. IEEE Transactions on Services Computing, 5, 305–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Tinnemeier, N. A. M., Dastani, M., & Meyer, J. C. (2009). Roles and norms for programming agent organizations. In Proceedings of AAMAS’09 (pp. 121–128).Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    van der Torre, L. W. N., Hulstijn, J., Dastani, M., & Broersen, J. M. (2004). Specifying multiagent organizations. In Proceedings of 7th international workshop on deontic logic in computer science (DEON’04) (pp. 243–257).Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Venkatraman, M., & Singh, M. P. (1999). Verifying compliance with commitment protocols. Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems, 2(3), 217–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. 69.
    Weber, M. (Ed.). (1947). The theory of social and economic organization. New York, NY: The Free Press. Translated by A.M. Henderson and T. Parsons.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Winikoff, M. (2007). Implementing commitment-based interactions. In Proceedings of AAMAS’07 (pp. 873–880).Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Xing, J., & Singh, M. P. (2003). Engineering commitment-based multiagent systems: A temporal logic approach. In Proceedings of AAMAS’03 (pp. 891–898).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mehdi Dastani
    • 1
  • Leendert van der Torre
    • 2
  • Neil Yorke-Smith
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of LuxembourgLuxembourgLuxembourg
  3. 3.American University of BeirutBeirutLebanon

Personalised recommendations