Affect Sensing Using Linguistic, Semantic and Cognitive Cues in Multi-threaded Improvisational Dialogue


In this paper, a context-based affect detection component embedded in an improvisational virtual platform is implemented. The software allows up to five human characters and one intelligent agent to be engaged in one session to conduct creative improvisation within loose scenarios. The transcripts produced showed several conversations being conducted in parallel. Some of these conversations reveal personal subjective opinions or feelings about situations, while others are caused by social interactions and show opinions and emotional responses to other participant characters. These two types of conversations serve to inform the descriptions of the personal and the social contexts, respectively. In order to detect affect from such contexts, first of all a naïve Bayes classifier is used to categorize these two types of conversations based on linguistic cues. A semantic-based analysis is also used to further derive the discussion themes and identify the target audiences for the social interaction inputs. Then, two statistical approaches have been developed to provide affect detection, respectively, in the social and personal emotion contexts. The emotional history of each individual character is used in interpreting affect relating to the personal contexts, while the social context affect detection takes account of interpersonal relationships, sentence types, emotions implied by the potential target audiences in their most recent interactions and discussion themes. The new development of context-based affect detection is integrated with the intelligent agent. The work addresses one challenging cognitive topic in the affective computing field, the detection and revealing of the relevant “context” to inform affect detection. The work addresses the journal’s themes on human emotion behavior analysis and understanding.

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    The Crohn’s disease scenario is mainly about Peter who has had Crohn’s disease since the age of 15. Crohn’s disease attacks the wall of the intestines and makes it very difficult to digest food properly. Peter has the option to undergo surgery (ileostomy), which will have a major impact on his life. The task of the role-play is to discuss the pros and cons with friends and family and decide whether he should have the operation. The other characters are the following: Janet (mom) who wants Peter to have the operation, Matthew (older brother) who is against the operation, Arnold (Dad) who is not able to face the situation and David (the best friend) who mediates the discussion.

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We thank Dr. Meurig Beynon for his help with proofreading and detailed feedback on the technical aspects and manner of writing. We also thank Dr. Zach Pardos and Dr. Tristan Nixon, the organizers of a tutorial, Parameter Fitting for Learner Models, associated with 2012 International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems.

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Correspondence to Li Zhang.

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Zhang, L., Barnden, J. Affect Sensing Using Linguistic, Semantic and Cognitive Cues in Multi-threaded Improvisational Dialogue. Cogn Comput 4, 436–459 (2012).

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  • Affect detection
  • Emotion modeling
  • Multi-threaded improvisation
  • Hidden Markov model
  • Neural network