Miscommunication: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

TitleMiscommunication: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsTraum, D. R.
Conference NameSymposium on Miscommunication at Cogsci2005
Date PublishedJuly 2005
Conference LocationStresa, Italy

Miscommunication is a frequent occurrence in human interaction and human-machine interaction. It is often seen as an impediment to successful interaction, and steps may be taken to avoid or ignore it. However, miscommunication can be beneficial as well. For example, in a collaborative learning situation, miscommunication
can point out conceptual disagreements that can lead to a deeper understanding of issues. Likewise, realization
of an other as having different beliefs or values can lead to openness and more ethical consideration of
that other’s point of view. McRoy and Hirst distinguish three types of miscommunication: Misunderstanding, where one participant believes she has a complete and correct interpretation which is not what was intended by the other participant, Non-understanding, in which a participant fails to obtain an interpretation or obtains more than one interpretation, and misinterpretation, in which the best interpretation suggests that beliefs about the world are out of alignment. Each of these can be a source of clarification and repair in dialogue. Non-understanding is potentially ‘ugly’: communication seems impossible or disfluent. Misunderstanding is potentially ‘bad’: participants may end up with incompatible views while believing that they agree. Misinterpretation, however, is generally the source of positive work toward integration of various perspectives, and thus to be encouraged in collaborative learning situations.