Specifying and Analysing Institutions in Multi-agent Systems Using Answer Set Programming

  • Owen Cliffe

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


It is recognised that normative systems, and in particular electronic institutions and contracts are a potentially powerful means for making agent interactions in multi-agent systems effective and efficient. However, correctly specifying the behaviour of such systems is a difficult problem. Designers are faced with two concurrent, complex tasks: firstly they must specify the relationships (over time) between agents’ actions and their effects, and secondly they must also consider how agents’ actions are to be regulated through the definition of agents’ permissions and obligations. Such systems are typi- cally complex, and given this complexity it may be difficult for a designer to determine whether their original objectives have been captured by the specification of the system. In this dissertation we seek to address some of the problems associated with institu- tional specification. In order to do this we present a model for specifying institutions based on the notion of socially constructed reality that accounts not only for how the action and events which constitute the institution are described, but also how they are regulated. Institutions may be used in a number of ways, and may account for concepts at varying levels of abstraction. Recognising this we also investigate how several insti- tutions, each accounting for a particular aspect of a society may be composed and how the relationships between these institutions may be expressed. Given this model, we then demonstrate how, using the answer set programming paradigm institutional spec- ifications based on our model may be checked for the absence or presence of certain (un)desirable properties.
Date of Award1 Jan 2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJulian Padget (Supervisor) & Marina De Vos (Supervisor)


  • Answer set programming
  • Norms
  • Agents
  • ASP
  • Institutions

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