For most people, it is natural to talk. We do not even have to think about it. Speech is what separates us from most animals.
We have these amazing communication techniques that we apply all day long that we are not even aware of. We use words, facial expressions, gestures and we consider context to share the message.
Cooperation is a big part of that. When we communicate we always try to help each other out and be cooperative. We provide information that’s truthful, we provide the right amount of information and we do it with the right tone of voice. Paul Grice is the researcher that identified this. He called it the Cooperative Principle.
The Cooperative Principle
Paul Grice identified 4 maxims that make up the cooperative principle. You could call these 4 maxims collectively the engine of communication. They are the natural force that powers our conversations. They are so crucial that we should list them:
Maxim of Quality
When people communicate, we assume that we are being truthful. To move a conversation in the right direction, we have to provide truthful information of high quality. Otherwise, the conversation is not going anywhere.
Maxim of Quantity
When people talk, we always provide as much information as needed. This comes natural to humans, but it is actually difficult to do for bots. For example, if you would ask the question:
User: do you know the time?
Bot: it’s 4 pm
This would be the right amount of information. But if we were dealing with a bot that is not being cooperative, he could answer the question by saying ‘yes’ or maybe say ‘in Amsterdam it’s 6 pm, in London it’s 5 pm, in NYC it’s 12 pm’.
In those two cases, the bot is actually answering the question, but he is not offering the right amount of information. A human would never do this.
Maxim of Relevance
Everything that is being said in a conversation is assumed to be relevant. Sometimes we might say something that seems a little off, but then our brain allows us to process the information, skip a few steps, and respond accordingly. It allows us to imply certain information.
John: Do you have everything packed?
Jane: Aren’t we leaving tomorrow?
John: Uber will be here in 20 minutes… get it done now!