Variations on a Bayesian Theme: Comparing Bayesian Models of Referential Reasoning
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Recent developments in Bayesian experimental pragmatics have received much attention. The Rational Speech Act (RSA) model formalizes core concepts of traditional pragmatic theories quantitatively and makes predictions that fit empirical data nicely. In this paper, we analyze the RSA model and its relation to closely related game theoretic approaches, by spelling out its belief, goal and action components. We introduce some alternatives motivated from the game theoretic tradition and compare models incorporating these alternatives systematically to the original RSA model, using Bayesian model comparison, in terms of their ability to predict relevant empirical data. The result suggests that the RSA model could be adapted and extended to improve its predictive power, in particular by taking speaker preferences into account.
KeywordsReferential expressions Scalar implicature Pragmatic reasoning Referential game Bayesian pragmatics Rational speech-act theory Game-theoretic pragmatics Experimental pragmatics Bayesian analysis Model comparison
We are indebted to Judith Degen, Michael C. Frank, Noah D. Goodman and Daniel Lassiter, two anonymous reviewers, and the audience of the ESSLLI workshop “Bayesian Natural Language Semantics and Pragmatics” for stimulating feedback and discussion. Many thanks also to Henk Zeevat and Hans-Christian Schmitz for organizing mentioned workshop, and to Will Frager for help realizing our experiments. Michael Franke gratefully acknowledges financial support by NWO-VENI grant 275-80-004.
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